See link for photos & video.
In an Africa-wide crisis, extremists allied to Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are hunting the animals using AK47s, even killing baby elephants with tusks only an inch long.
Their hauls are worth as much as £65 per 1lb once sold to China through ports in Dar es Salaam and Mombasa.
Armed forces have already been sent to Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Ethiopia within the past five years in a bid to train 145 intelligence officers capable of providing info on the ground as to poachers’ movements.
Express.co.uk can also reveal they are also expecting to conduct similar missions in the near future in Malawi and Somalia – where elephants have only just returned after being extinct for 20 years.
Christian Mbina, Gabon Parks technical director said: “We’re convinced on all evidence we have that the money raised by poaching goes to fund terrorism. The network and movements of Boko Haram are known all over Africa now.
“The same way Al-Shabaab are involved in ivory poaching in the east of Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, Boko Haram do the same here. The big terror groups in Africa now live from piracy and poaching.”
The army sent a hand-picked squad of sixteen soldiers, including infantry from 2 Rifles Regiment as well as a specialised Gurkha tracker trained in jungle warfare in order to locate both the elephants and the poachers keen to hunt them.
Major Joe Murray of 2 Rifles regiment says his men are doing vital work protecting the elephants in Gabon where 36,000 have been killed in the last 10 years. He said: “We’re here not just to help train the Gabonese park rangers to catch poachers, we’re here to help them secure arrests and prosecutions too.
“That’s catching them in the act, sealing the crime scene, gathering up any evidence that they can then put in a court of law and nail a conviction.
“The Gabonese are so enthusiastic and brave – previously they have been going in unarmed against dangerous poachers. Now, with the right tactics, they can do their job more safely and successfully.”
Simplice Elingou, a park manager in Waka, says the impact from the British forces has been immediate.
He said: “Before, if a group of poachers arrived in my park there would be panic. Now, we have a plan, we have tactics and we know what to do to catch them.
“I hope this means our elephants are safe and we can use our wildlife to boost our economy and people can see our country for what it really is.”
Lance Corporal Sam Barrett said: “The first time we watched the Gabonese make an arrest on a training exercise they had people running in from different directions, which causes a risk of friendly fire.
“There were also issues with the searches of the poachers’ campsites. There were many places that a person could have hid something, but now, after watching us, they are now trained to British Army standard.
“I take real pride in that. But we’re learning so much from too, this is my first time in the jungle and so its a good experience for my career.”
Last week Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced plan for a total ban on all ivory trading.
The UK has already doubled its investment to stopping the illegal wildlife trade to £13m.
An army spokesperson said: “As part of these measures DEFRA requested the MOD to use the knowledge gained through their actions in Gabon to develop a sustainable plan to help African countries in improving counter poaching.
“Three areas were highlighted to develop; interception, tracking and information sharing to build an intelligence picture. We are now embarking on a pilot phase in Malawi.”
Prince William said last year: “We have to act to stop poaching now. At the current rate, by the time my daughter Charlotte is 25, the African elephant will be gone from the world.”