According to wildlife officials, a family of 11 elephants were recently killed in what is being referred to as the biggest mass shooting of the threatened species on record in Kenya.
An elephant forages at the Tsavo East National Park. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
The killings took place on Saturday in Tsavo East National Park, one of the country’s tourism gems and Kenya’s largest single continuous ecosystem home to approximately 13,000 elephants.
The Kenya Wildlife Service said in a statement, ‘The entire family of 11 elephants have been confirmed poached and tusks chopped off. All the carcasses had bullet wounds.’
The service says its rangers are pursuing a poaching gang believed to have slaughtered the family of elephants for their ivory tusks. It says foot, dog, and aerial units are currently on the hunt for the estimated 10 attackers.
Elephants across Africa have become increasingly threatened by poachers in recent years as the demand for ivory trinkets continues to rise in Asia—particularly China.
And while a pound of ivory is now worth more than $1,000 in Beijing, poor African villagers are able to earn vast sums by killing elephants and removing their tusks.
Although elephant poaching in Kenya witnessed a sharp decline after 1989 when the government banned the ivory trade, there has been a rise in illegal practice in recent years with tens of thousands of elephants being killed—more than at any other point in decades.
“We’ve seen nothing as bad as this since the 1980s,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, a researcher in Kenya who has studied elephants for several years. “We’re right back to where we were.”
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Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Udo said this latest slaughter was the worst single incident of its kind recorded in Kenya.
Udo said, “(It) shows the great lengths these criminal cartels are ready to go to get ivory. It’s really tragic.”
Figures indicate approximately 350 elephants were poached in Kenya last year—though wildlife groups say the figure was just a small fraction of the true number of deaths as the carcasses of many poached elephants are never discovered. In addition, a total of six wildlife rangers were also killed in 2012—again, more than in any other recent year.
Despite the East African country’s ban on the ivory trade, illegal practices are more prevalent than ever before. And without cooperation from the Chinese government, these murders will only continue. Help protect these endangered animals and sign the petition telling Chinese President Xi Jinping to stop imports of elephant tusks and rhino horns.