Kenyan rangers forge deadly battle with wildlife poaching gang

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Nairobi, Kenya
Three wildlife rangers and four poachers were killed this past weekend in a pre-dawn shoot-out in Kenya’s Tana River District. The gang of poachers was en route to Tsavo East National Park, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said, when they were ordered to stop, but instead opened fire. Rangers brought down four poachers in the ensuing gun battle but at the cost of three of their own, bringing to 23 the number of KWS rangers who have died in the line of duty since 1990.
"Our rangers paid the ultimate prize - human life. But their deaths will not be in vain. We remain vigilant and dedicated to our call - to stamp out poaching and preserve Kenya's wildlife heritage," said Dickson Lesimirdana, Head of Anti- Poaching Operations at KWS.
 
Tsavo, Africa’s second largest park and thought to have been the poachers’ destination, is recognized worldwide for its important elephant populations. James Isiche, the East Africa Regional Director for IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org), which is currently funding a major Tsavo restoration project said, “This tragic event is a prime example of the parallel effects of the rampant illegal international elephant ivory trade, responsible for the killing of an estimated 20,000 elephants annually, on human populations. The threat is real, both to humans and elephants, and most wildlife authorities in elephant ranges states are forced to grapple with this challenge.”
 
Ironically, this deadly battle occurred whilst KWS and Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife convened the African Elephant Consultative Workshop in Nairobi. Participating nations joined together to strategize on the upcoming 14th meeting of parties to the Convention on the International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) which will begin June 3rd in The Hague.
 
Kenya and Mali have submitted a proposal to CITES for a 20-year moratorium on all ivory, and are currently backed by 10 African elephant range states, as well as additional countries. This recent episode lends further clout to the proposal, which in one argument suggests that enforcement authorities in many elephant range states are at capacity and are unable to sustain the current levels of poaching.
 
“The ivory trade and the violence amongst humans that it perpetuates will continue to flourish if elephants are not protected to the fullest under CITES,” says Michael Wamithi, former KWS Director and Manager of IFAW’s global Elephants Program. “A ban on all ivory trade is the only way to work towards protecting both elephants and human populations,” he added.
 
Over 26 tonnes (29 tons) of elephant ivory was seized between August 2005 and August 2006, which is the highest annual seizure rate witnessed since the 1989 CITES ban went into effect. In addition, enforcement authorities estimate that nearly 90 per cent of contraband slips through controls undetected.

To learn more about the critical elephant ivory issue, and to take action to save elephants, visit: www.ifaw.org today. 

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