Kenyan wildlife rangers yesterday were tracking a team of poachers who massacred a family of 11 elephants in what they said was the worst single such killing in the country in the past three decades. "We have not lost as many elephants in a single incident since the early 1980s," said Patrick Omondi, head of the elephant programme at the Kenya Wildlife Service.
The bullet-riddled corpses of the elephants - all with their tusks hacked off, and including a baby - were found on Saturday in the vast Tsavo East National Park.
"Our initial investigations show that the poachers numbered at least 10 and were armed with an assortment of guns," Omondi said, adding that the normal weapon of choice for poachers was an AK-47.
Officials say that an increase in demand for ivory in Asia - where elephant tusks are used in traditional medicines and to make ornaments - had led to a substantial increase in the killing of elephants in Africa.
"A kilogram of ivory can fetch up to US$2,500 in the black market, money that comes back to fund extremely organised gangs with sophisticated weapons," Omondi said.
Last year, Kenya lost about 360 elephants to poaching.