Gabonese president Ali Bongo has set fire to five tonnes of ivory worth millions of dollars to mark his government's commitment to battling poachers and saving elephants.
The pyre that was kindled in the capital Libreville represented the west African nation's entire government stockpile and would have required the killing of some 850 elephants.
"Gabon has a policy of zero tolerance for wildlife crime and we are putting in place the institutions and laws to ensure this policy is enforced," Bongo said.
"We don't want our children to inherit an empty forest. For that reason, we cannot allow this trafficking to continue," he said.
The spectacular burning of ivory tusks and carvings at Cite de la Democratie, a vast complex for hosting state functions, was welcomed by conservationists at a time when elephant poaching in central Africa is reaching record levels.
The stock destroyed on Wednesday amounted to 4825 kilograms, including 1293 pieces of rough ivory mainly composed of tusks and 17,730 pieces of worked ivory, according to the WWF nature protection organisation.
"We believe this is a strong signal of intent by Gabon against poaching and illegal wildlife trade - at a time of intense poaching pressure in central Africa, where the illegal killing of elephants for ivory is at record levels," the WWF said.
Some of the ivory burnt on Wednesday was up to a decade-old but most of it was seized from poachers over the past five years, said Lee White, who heads the National Parks Agency (ANPN).
"If we're not careful, one day we'll end up having to go to zoos abroad to see animals that are originally from here," he said.
There are an estimated 30,000 elephants in Gabon.
"This is an international problem and Gabon is coming under siege by criminal gangs of hunters and crime syndicates that smuggle ivory to Asia," White said.
"Unless there is a strong international reaction to stop wildlife crime, and ivory smuggling in particular, the forests of Gabon will no longer vibrate with the rumble of the forest elephant."
A report issued last week by the UN body that regulates the international wildlife trade - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) - said 2011 was the worst year on record for elephant poaching in Africa.
It is estimated that tens of thousands of elephants are being killed across Africa each year.