The professional poachers, armed with automatic rifles and machetes, were ruthlessly efficient as they gunned down a family of 12 elephants in Kenya and then hacked off their tusks.
The panicked animals tried to flee but only got about 300 metres before they were killed in one of the worst recorded cases of poaching in Kenya’s history.
The deaths last Saturday highlight the growing slaughter of elephants on the African continent as demand for ivory soars, particularly from Asian countries where the “white gold” is turned into trinkets, religious items and chopsticks.
Officials estimate that 25,000 elephants were killed in Africa in 2011 and the numbers are rising in a bid to supply an underground, multi-million dollar ivory business.
On Tuesday, armed wildlife rangers fanned out across eastern Kenya in pursuit of the poachers who killed the elephant family.
A calf, less than a year old, is believed to have been crushed by its dying mother as she fell to the ground.
“It is unimaginable, a heinous, heinous crime,” said Paul Udoto, spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
“We have not seen such an incident in recent memory. It’s the worst single loss that we have on record, and our records go back almost 30 years.
“These were professional killers. The attack was targeted and efficient.”
The poachers had already fled but there were hopes that a massive search involving foot patrols, a dozen vehicles and three aircraft could still find them. More....