- The Kenya Wildlife Service has arrested two suspected poachers and a middleman from their hideout in the park for allegedly killing five elephants in the last six weeks in Tsavo ecosystems of Kenya, a government wildlife official has said.
The poaching incidents come barely three months after the auctions of 112 tonnes of ivory stocks from South Africa, Bostwana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The official said two AK-47 rifles and 38 rounds of ammunition were also found, but the tusks had already been sold off to other dealers in the illegal ivory trade network.
“Since the one-off ivory sales from southern Africa countries late last year, we have noted an unprecedented rise of elephant poaching incidents in Tsavo," said Jonathan Kirui, Tsavo Assistant Director.
Earlier reports out of KWS indicated a 60 percent increase in poaching in the country from 2007 to 2008.
The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, imposed a global ban on the ivory trade in 1989 and Kenya reformed its wildlife conservation department to form the current Kenya Wildlife Service, helping to reduce poaching. But the current estimated population of 30,000 is still less than a fifth of the 1973 estimate of 167,000, according to reports.
Director of IFAW's Regional Office in East Africa, James Isiche, is concerned that the poaching incident could portend a return to the elephant poaching era of the 70s and 80s.
"The situation is dire, and needs to be arrested before it escalates further. We believe that there is a strong correlation between this upsurge and the ivory stockpiles sales allowed by CITES just a few months ago. Our concern is that the situation may be worse in other elephant range states which face more serious law enforcement capacity challenges as compared to Kenya or some of the Southern Africa countries.
"We strongly maintain that ivory trade anywhere is a threat to elephants everywhere," said Mr Isiche.
Second to size to Kruger Park, Tsavo is home to Kenya's largest single elephant population of about 11,700.
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