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As Epic Wave of Poaching Continues, Family of 12 Elephants Slaughtered in Kenya

'The bloody ivory trade has reached new heights of destruction and depravity'

- Beth Brogan, staff writer

Poachers in Kenya killed an entire family of 12 elephants Saturday in what officials believe to be the worst incident in the country's history.

A ranger cuts the tusks off an elephant killed in a Kenyan national park to keep ivory off the black market. (Photograph: Brent Stirton / Getty) Paul Udoto, spokesman for the Kenyan wildlife service, told The Telegraph that the poachers were "professional killers" armed with automatic rifles. He said foot patrols, a dozen vehicles and three aircraft were searching Tuesday for the men.

From Nairobi, Mike Pflanz of The Telegraph reports:

Six of the animals lay in one heap, their tusks hacked out with machetes.

None of the family group managed to flee further than 300 yards before they were gunned down and their ivory removed.

The calf, less than a year old, is believed to have been crushed by its dying mother as she fell to the ground.

Saturday's massacre took place in the 22,000-square-kilometer Tsavo Nationa Park near the border with Somalia, home to about 13,000 elephants, according to the BBC. {SOURCE}

Elephant tusks, and rhino horns, are banned from trade internationally, but illegal smuggling to Asia has increased in recent years, driven by demand for Chinese medicines, South Africa's Times Live reports.

Ivory fetches more than $2,000 per kilogram there, according to the CBC, with the average female adult tusk weighing 10 pounds.

In December, Malaysian officials seized about 20 tons of ivory on a shipment from Togo to China.

At the time, John Scanlon, secretary general of Cites, an organization that governs the trade in endangered species, told the BBC that the "new wave" of international organized wildlife crime "has become a profound threat to national security."

"The bloody ivory trade has reached new heights of destruction and depravity in 2012," he added.

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