Rabat - Poachers killed five elephants in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park on Monday; right around the time the world began mourning the death of Cecil, a lion shot by an American man in Zimbabwe.
Rabat – Poachers killed five elephants in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park on Monday; right around the time the world began mourning the death of Cecil, a lion shot by an American man in Zimbabwe.
Rangers found the bodies of what seemed to be an adult female elephant and her four offspring on Tuesday, with blood and loose skin around where their tusks were severed off.
Kenyan wildlife authorities have arrested two poachers suspected to be responsible for the killings, however a hunt for more is still underway.
“The suspected gang is believed to comprise … four Tanzanians who operate across the Tanzania-Kenya border assisted by some Kenyans from the local area. They are believed to have used motorbikes to escape with the tusks,” the Kenya Wildlife Service, which operates Tsavo National Park, told AFP.
Elephant poaching has been on the rise in recent years due to a high demand for ivory in Asia, where it can be sold for thousands of dollars per pound.
Between 2010 and 2012, poachers killed more than 100,000 African elephants.
Wildlife conservationists and experts have warned African elephants could be extinct in the wild within a few decades, the Guardian reported.
“This species could be extinct in our lifetime, within one or two decades, if the current trend continues,” Dune Ives, senior researcher at Vulcan, a philanthropic organization run by US billionaire Paul Allen, said. “In five years we may have lost the opportunity to save this magnificent and iconic animal.”
These events, including the killing of Cecil the lion, have reminded the public that the poaching of endangered animals continues to be a critical issue, despite the measures currently taken to discourage such acts.
Kenyan authorities say they were making progress in the fight against poachers before the recent killing at Tsavo. Last year, the government employed 550 new rangers and began to take advantage of GPS trackers that have the ability to gauge when elephants might be under threat based on their movement and speed.
“We’ve increased our intelligence and our operations. We were having success,” Paul Gathitu, a spokesman for Kenya Wildlife Service, said. “That’s why we’re so surprised.”
U.S. President Barack Obama announced Saturday during his trip to Kenya that his administration will begin taking “urgently needed steps” to tighten restrictions on the sale of ivory from African elephants.
While the United States will be working toward saving the lives of elephants, the country makes up a very small portion of the international ivory market. Asia, on the other hand, makes up a majority, yet only loosely enforces their ivory regulations.
TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images