Kenya: Hunt On for Tsavo Elephant Killers


By Fred Mukinda and Lucy Mkanyika, Daily Nation

Date Published

A major security operation was on Wednesday under way in Tsavo West National Park, where poachers killed five elephants two days ago.

The five carcasses with their tusks missing were found by Kenya Wildlife Service rangers at Losoita within the expansive park on Tuesday.

Two people were arrested at a manyatta in Ndoomani, Taita-Taveta County. More poachers are still at large and are believed to have escaped to Tanzania.

KWS spokesman Paul Udoto said police and Tanzanian authorities are also involved in the operation that started at 6pm on Monday, after residents in nearby villages reported hearing gunshots in the park.

“KWS rangers were dispatched on a search mission and found five carcasses of freshly poached elephants comprising a female adult and four sub-adults, with the tusks missing. The carcasses were found at about 11am on Tuesday,” he said.

The poachers at large are said to be four Tanzanians working for a cartel operating in both countries.

“The gang is believed to comprise four Tanzanians who operate across the border, assisted by some Kenyans from the local area. They are believed to have used motorbikes to escape with the tusks,” Mr Udoto said in a statement.

A blood-stained axe, a pair of sandals and a hacksaw were found in one of the houses where the two suspects were arrested.

Taita-Taveta Police Commander Richard Bitonga said eight spent cartridges were found at the crime scene.

Tsavo Deputy Director Robert Obrien said authorities obtained the names of the suspects being pursued and contacted Tanzanian authorities to help in arresting the poachers.

Kenya lost 164 elephants to poachers last year and this year’s tally stood at 34 within the first four months.

Kenya has also become a safe route for cartels involved in illegal ivory trade, with tusks from other African nations often smuggled through the country.

Recently, more than three tonnes of ivory that was shipped from Kenya was seized by authorities in Thailand — representing about 200 elephants killed.

KWS has been working with Interpol to identify key people who run the cartels responsible for the dwindling number of elephants.

The government has also been pressing the world to support its anti-poaching campaigns.

In March, President Kenyatta set fire to 15 tonnes of ivory with a black market value of $30 million (Sh2.7 billion) — the largest consignment to be destroyed in Kenya — as part of efforts to curb poaching.

At the same time, two people have been killed by marauding elephants and lions, which have invaded Mwatate.

Speaking to the Daily Nation in Mwatate, Human-Wildlife Conflict area coordinator Gamalel Mwangi blamed KWS for doing little to keep the animals away from human settlements.

“Residents and livestock are being killed and injured by wildlife and our crops are destroyed, leaving us to depend on food aid,” he said.

According to residents, more than 50 elephants have invaded Alia, Mwashuma, Manoa, Godoma, Chunga Unga, Mwaranginyi, Bura, Mazola, Mlughi and Kizingo villages, which border Tsavo.