By Gabriel Gatehouse
In their terror, the elephants must have sought safety in numbers - in vain: a thick trail of blackened blood traced their final moments.
In December, nine elephants were killed outside the Tsavo National Park, in south-eastern Kenya. This month, a family of 12 was gunned down in the same area.
In both cases, the elephants' faces had been hacked off to remove the tusks. The rest was left to the maggots and the flies.
"That is a big number for one single incident," said Samuel Takore of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). "We have not had such an incident in recent years, I think dating back to before I joined the service."
Mr Takore joined in the 1980s, and his observations corroborate a wider pattern: across Africa, elephant poaching is now at its highest for 20 years.
During the 1980s, more than half of Africa's elephants are estimated to have been wiped out, mostly by poachers hunting for ivory.
But in January 1990, countries around the world signed up to an international ban on the trade in ivory. Global demand dwindled in the face of a worldwide public awareness campaign.
Elephant populations began to swell again.
But in recent years, those advances have been reversed.
China to blame?
An estimated 25,000 elephants were killed in 2011. The figures for 2012 are still being collated, but they will almost certainly be higher still. More....