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Elephant Poacher Shot and Killed in Kenyan National Park
NAIROBI - January 22 - An armed poacher suspected to be behind a spate of elephant killings was shot and killed by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers during a gun battle yesterday in Tsavo East National Park. A semi-automatic rifle, 17 rounds of ammunition and poisoned arrows were recovered from the scene. Ivory was the primary motivation here, according to officials.
Rangers had trailed the poacher and his accomplice for 17 hours on foot, according to area warden Josphat Erupe. "We noticed one poacher on top of a tree but he jumped down and vanished. We only became aware that there was a second man when he opened fire at our rangers from behind the tree but he was shot and killed in the ensuing battle."
According to unnamed sources in KWS, elephant poaching rose by 60 per cent from 2007 to 2008. "It is not difficult to make the link between this increased poaching and the recent reopening of the international ivory trade. This type of event is really not unexpected. On the contrary, we predicted this reinvigoration of poaching would occur," said Michael Wamithi, Program Director for IFAW's (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org) global elephant campaign.
Wamithi is referring to the tonnage of ivory stocks that were auctioned off from four southern African nations in October/November 2008 and arguments at the time that such would only spur a regeneration of the global elephant ivory trade.
"Ivory trade anywhere affects elephant populations everywhere," continued Wamithi. "By reopening legal trade, poachers are only motivated to kill and to launder their own illicit ivory into these legal markets.
"If endangered elephant populations are to survive, all ivory trade must come to a halt. Until then, we will see the blood of elephants and those who protect them continue to be unnecessarily spilt."
IFAW has a five-year partnership with KWS worth US$ 1.25 million to enhance management operations such as law enforcement and anti-poaching efforts in Tsavo, Africa's second largest park, which is recognized worldwide for its important elephant populations. The two field patrol vehicles that were used in the anti-poaching operation were supplied by IFAW as part of this partnership project.