Rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service have killed six suspected elephant poachers in the past week. On Tuesday, three poachers were shot and killed by KWS rangers in the Tsavo East National Park, while last week, three others were killed near Mount Kenya.
Demand for ivory in China and other southeast Asian countries has been blamed for a recent spike in elephant poaching activity. In 2007, Kenya lost 47 elephants to poachers; 278 were killed last year.
KWS spokesman Paul Udoto told the Associated Press that a record number of park rangers have also been killed defending elephants from poachers in recent months. Since December, six have died in the line of duty. Udoto vowed that his colleagues will not have died in vain and expressed his organization’s determination to stamp out elephant poaching.
“We are determined to give them their day in court, but these people are heavily armed and are determined to kill not only our wildlife but our rangers,” he said.
Since a global ivory trade ban was implemented in 1989, elephant populations in Kenya have slowly climbed to 37,000. But that’s still a far cry from the early 1970s, when an estimated 167,000 of them roamed the country.