Five elephants killed in Kenyan National Park -Conservationists warn of upsurge in ivory poaching

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
(Nairobi, Kenya – 23 February 2009) – Five elephants have been killed illegally in the last six weeks in Tsavo National Park in Kenya. The elephants, whose tusks had been hacked off, were found in three different parts of the Tsavo ecosystem.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers arrested two suspected poachers and one middleman from their hideout in Galana, and recovered two AK-47 rifles and 38 rounds of ammunition. The middleman had already sold off the tusks to other dealers in the illegal ivory trade network. An elephant carcass was found close by. The other elephants are suspected to have succumbed to poisoned arrow wounds.

“Since the one-off ivory sales from Southern Africa countries late last year, we have noted an unprecedented rise of elephant poaching incidents in Tsavo. Our security team is on full alert, and is going full force to ensure that the poachers are deterred,” says Jonathan Kirui, Tsavo Assistant Director.

These poaching incidents comes barely two months after the sale of 108 tonnes of ivory stocks from South Africa, Bostwana, Namibia and Zimbabwe having been sanctioned the first time in nearly ten years by the UN-backed Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

“We have information that a kilo of ivory is going for as low as US$37.50 from local middlemen to other dealers, and this could be an incentive to local people who were not involved in the illegal trade in previous years,” he added. A kilo of ivory in the international black market fetches more than US$850.

James Isiche, Director of IFAW’s Regional Office in East Africa, is concerned that the incident could portend a return to the elephant poaching era of 1970s and 80s.

“The situation is dire, and needs to be stopped before it escalates further. We believe that there is a strong correlation between this upsurge and the ivory stockpiles sales allowed by CITES that were completed in late 2008. Our concern is that the situation may be worse in other elephant range states which face more serious law enforcement capacity challenges as compared to Kenya or some of the Southern Africa countries.  

“We strongly maintain that ivory trade anywhere is a threat to elephants everywhere,” says Isiche.

Only last week, a leading elephant researcher Dr Cynthia Moss released a report indicating that an elaborate poaching syndicate had led to an upsurge in elephant killings in Amboseli National Park. According to unnamed sources in KWS, elephant poaching in Kenya rose by over 60 per cent in 2008 as compared to 2007.

Second in size to Kruger Park, Tsavo is home to Kenya’s largest single elephant population of about 11,700. Since 2005, IFAW has been undertaking a five-year collaborative project with KWS worth US$ 1.25 million to enhance management operations in law enforcement and anti-poaching efforts, park infrastructural support, human wildlife conflict, research, community conservation and education in the Parks.

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