By Hassan Huka
Four suspected poachers were Saturday gunned down in a fierce gun battle with Kenya Wildlife Service officers and Lewa Down Conservancy rangers in Karandare near Isiolo town.
The combined security personnel recovered an AK47 assault rifle and several rounds of ammunition, spears and poisoned arrows. Axes, knives and cooking pots were also found on the armed men. One of the suspects escaped with gunshot wounds and the KWS officers are calling on the public to report to police when they spot a man with gunshot injuries.
The suspects were believed to be on the poaching mission in the highly protected Lewa Down wildlife sanctuary where close to 10 rhinos have been killed since June 2012.
This year alone two black rhinos, one of the highly guarded animals, were killed by trophy hunters.
According to mountain region assistant director of Kenya Wildlife Service Mr Aggrey Muamo, the rangers received a tip off from members of the public that five men were spotted advancing towards the conservancy. The animal guards in turn alerted the KWS officers who responded promptly. They surrounded the men at dawn and felled them in 30 minutes of fierce exchange of fire.
Isiolo has been put under microscope over rampant poaching of elephants and rhinos in the parks around the tourism hub of Isiolo resort city. According to Mr Muamo, killing of elephants have gone down considerably but the risk remains high.
“During rainy season the jumbos leave the forested areas to the plains but we are optimistic poaching will be put under control,” said Mr Muamo.
Muamo said the KWS will be using the planes to provide aerial protection of the animals in an effort to combat animal killing.
According to animals census conducted in November last year, the elephant poaching had risen to alarming levels, thereby raising concerns in government circles. Poaching had put the jumbo population under watch.
The elephant numbers dropped by 18 per cent country wide but the invasion of protected rhino sanctuaries where more trophy carriers were hunted down with protection abandon has raised fear of whipping out the populations of the endangered animals.