Poachers are using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to track down and kill endangered rhinos, elephants and lions.
The killer gangs are specifically scouring social media sites for tourists on safaris whose photos unwittingly pinpoint the whereabouts of rare animals.
Because of geo-tagging features on smartphones, poachers can work out from the images the co-ordinates of animals sought for their ivory, teeth or fur.
The poaching gangs then use helicopters to immediately head to the area for a quick kill.
Now thousands of British visitors to Africa have been urged to take care when posting pictures on social media. One tourist who has recently returned from the Kruger National Park in South Africa said: “It is clearly a great concern for the authorities.
GettyAn elephant lies dead in the grasslands of Zakouma National Park under the shade of a tree after poachers fired automatic weapons into a herd of elephant to kill them for their ivory on October 24, 2008 in Zakouma, Chad.
“We were specifically asked to ensure we did not give away the animals’ precise location if we posted photographs online.”
William Mabasa, spokesman for the Kruger National Park, said: “Tourists should not do anything that will help the poachers. They must be really careful with what they put on social media.
“They must not give away the location of endangered animals like rhino and elephant.”
Poaching has increased in recent years due to the booming market in the Far East where rhino horn is prized for its supposed medicinal properties.
Last year more than 1,020 rhino were slaughtered for in South Africa – 700 in Kruger alone.
South African National Parks spokesman Marc Reading said: “It is concerning. Unidentified choppers have been finding animals very quickly and we think it’s down to this (social media).”