Reach and messages of the world's largest ivory burn

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Recent increases in ivory poaching have depressed African elephant populations. Successful enforcement has led to ivory stockpiling. Stockpile destruction is becoming increasingly popular, and most destruction has occurred in the last 5 years. Ivory destruction is intended to send a strong message against ivory consumption, both in promoting a taboo on ivory use and catalyzing policy change. However, there has been no effort to establish the distribution and extent of media reporting on ivory destruction events globally. We analyzed media coverage of the largest ivory destruction event in history (Kenya, 30 April 2016) across 11 nation states connected to ivory trade. We used an online‐media crawling tool to search online media outlets and subjected 5 of the largest print newspapers (by circulation) in 5 nations of interest to content analysis. Most online news on the ivory burn came from the United States (81% of 1944 articles), whereas most of the print news articles came from Kenya (61% of 157 articles). Eighty‐six to 97% of all online articles reported the burn as a positive conservation action, whereas 4–50% discussed ivory burning as having a negative impact on elephant conservation. Most articles discussed law enforcement and trade bans as effective for elephant conservation. There was more relative search interest globally in the 2016 Kenyan ivory burn than any other burn in 5 years. Ours is the first attempt to track the reach of media coverage relative to an ivory burn and provides a case study in tracking the effects of a conservation‐marketing event.