Elephant Poacher Killed in Kenya
In what would seem like a small victory, an elephant poacher was killed recently in Kenya by wildlife rangers, the Kenya Wildlife Service said Tuesday.
Unfortunately, The Associated Press (AP) reported, the rangers did not get there in time, as the elephant was already dead.
The band of poachers infiltrated Choke Ranch in southern Kenya, the survivors of the ordeal fleeing the scene before they could finish the job and cut off the elephant's tusks.
It's no secret that elephant poaching is running rampant across Africa, the demand for their ivory tusks skyrocketing. African elephants, the continent's most iconic species, have declined from millions to about only 400,000 animals today. At this rate, they will be extinct by the year 2020.
According to a report in the journal PNAS, published back in August, the number of African elephants killed due to illegal poaching has risen from 25 percent to between 60 and 70 percent over the last decade.
At least the United States has chosen to take a stand against the illegal ivory trade, with the states of New Jersey and then New York enacting stricter bans on all ivory products. However, China, one of the world's biggest ivory purchasers, has yet to do the same.
China is still the largest market for illegal ivory despite a ban on exports of such products. Just this past November, officials accompanying President Xi Jinping even contributed to this black market on a trip to Tanzania, during which they went on an ivory buying spree.
While rangers on protected lands are trying to bolster their efforts, it's difficult considering poachers have more sophisticated technology and national parks have too little funding to keep up. Poachers were responsible for more than half of ranger deaths in the last two years, according to the IUCN.
According to the AP, some human rights groups have even accused wildlife rangers of conspiring with poachers, in some instances killing suspects as a way to keep their own involvement in the dark. In 2012, for example, four national park employees were even caught helping poachers in their illegal dealings, reported the South African-based Wilderness Foundation.
So while this latest incident has rid the world of one illegal elephant poacher, there are still countless more out there, highlighting the need to protect Africa's elephants now more than ever.
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