By Valerie Hamilton
Outside of Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters in Nairobi, there's a stone monument that is paved in long brass plaques. The plaques list the names of park rangers killed on the job.
Ranger Florence Abae, shot by poachers on March 2, 2012, along with Ranger Francis Ochieng. Sergeant Bake Adan, ambushed three weeks before.
There are more than 60 names listed.
The "conservation heroes monument" looks like a war memorial. In many ways, it is.
As poaching decimates Africa's elephant and rhino populations – thousands killed in the past year alone - it's increasingly taken human casualties, on both sides of the fight.
“Sometimes we lose our rangers,” says Paul Mbugua, a spokesman for Kenya’s Wildlife Service. “This year we have already lost two of them - and sometimes poachers also lose their life.”
A 21-year veteran in military fatigues, Mbugua says in the past three years, poachers have shot hundreds of park rangers. Thirteen have died.
In the old days, small-time poachers carried pistols and came on foot. But a boom market in banned wildlife products has attracted major players, and better-equipped, more violent hit men. More....