Elephant poachers were shot dead by rangers as they tried to kill the animals at a national park in Kenya.
Wildlife troopers had been on a routine patrol at Mount Elgon National Park, which straddles the border of Kenya and Uganda, “when they encountered a gang of five men last Thursday”, reports The Independent.
The rangers, from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) exchanged fire with the poachers, who were reportedly armed with AK-47 rifles.
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Equipment associated with poaching was later found at the scene, the wildlife service said.
“KWS officers were on patrol inside the park when they spotted the poachers,” Trans Nzoia county police commander Samson ole Kine told Nairobi-based newspaper The Standard.
“A fierce shoot-out ensued and three of the poachers were gunned down while two others escaped. AK-47 rifles were recovered.”
Police county commissioner, Erastus Mbui, said authorities had stepped up security and surveillance operations along the Kenya-Uganda border to deter poachers.
“More officers have been deployed to conduct regular security patrols at the park and ensure wildlife is protected from the poachers,” he said.
“We urge communities around the park to report people they suspect to be on a poaching mission.”
Poaching has declined sharply in Kenya from a peak in 2012 but “it remains a problem, with some 69 elephants and nine rhinos killed last year”, says Metro. Despite a ban on the international trade in ivory in 1997, African elephants are still being poached in large numbers.
“Their tusks are the most sought after, with the ivory being carved into ornaments and jewellery”, adds the paper.
China remains the biggest consumer market for the tusks.
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