By Mathias Ringa
At least four elephants were killed by poachers in the Tsavo conservation area last week.
This brings the number of elephants killed by poachers in Tsavo this year to 41.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) assistant director in charge of Tsavo conservation area Robert Obrein said out of the 41, 15 died of gunshot wounds, 10 through natural causes and eight were killed by poisoned arrow wounds.
He said the cause of the deaths of five other elephants is unknown, two were killed by veterinary officers as chances of their survival were slim, while one was knocked down by a lorry along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway.
He said the poachers killed the four elephants at Amaka ranch in Taita Taveta County last week.
The KWS official said rangers who were on patrol in the Taita ranches last Friday were attracted by gunshot sounds.
As they pursued the attackers, they found three elephants had already been killed.
They pursued the poachers who fled leaving behind the ivory.
Mr Obrein said the rangers recovered eight tusks weighing 60kg.
They later came across another elephant which had been killed by the poachers.
He said the KWS rangers have launched a massive manhunt for the poachers in 29 ranches in Taita.
“Cases of poachers killing elephants using rifles in the conservation area went down last year after the government carried out an operation in the ranches,” he said.
“This year alone, 15 elephants have been shot dead which means poachers are using firearms,” he added.
He went on: “The poachers have resorted to killing the elephants at night making it hard for us to trace them.”
He suggested that the use of drones could be the best way to contain poaching in the conservation area.
Mr Obrein noted that elephants in Tsavo were under threat as KWS rangers have discovered hundreds of snares in the conservation area.
Last year, KWS director William Kiprono said poachers killed 137 elephants and 24 rhinos in conservation areas across the country.
Mr Kiprono said half of the animals were killed in the Tsavo conservation area.
Currently, the country has an estimated population of 40,000 elephants and a total of 1,025 rhinos.