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Poachers Kill a Grand Dame of a Great Elephant Family

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You are here: Kenya News Poachers Kill a Grand Dame of a Great Elephant Family

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  Jan Wednesday, 16 March 2011 15:04

Poachers Kill a Grand Dame of a Great Elephant Family

Savetheelephants.org
11 March, 2011

 

12 gun shots tore through the night near Isiolo town in Northern Kenya last week, signaling the death of the elephant ‘Hope’, a sub-group matriarch from a family of elephants know as the ‘Virtues’.

 

Sadly, Hope had been observed just minutes before paying her respects to the remains of a dead family member, named ‘Resilience’, gunned down by poachers last week. STE founder Iain Douglas-Hamilton and a National Geographic film crew were in the area when the shooting took place, having just been to film the remains of the dead elephant Resilience and discovering its living relative mourning its death.

 

“Elephants have strong social and family ties and are very distressed when family members die. They have often been observed revisiting the remains of family members many years after their death,” says Douglas-Hamilton. “The elephant Hope had sought out her family member’s remains to grieve, and we were shocked to learn that she herself was killed only moments later.”

 

Once the crew returned to their research camp for sunset, an STE scout phoned to inform Douglas-Hamilton that 12 gun shots were heard outside of Samburu National Reserve in the space of five minutes. Distressingly, elephants could be heard screaming and later, the sound of ivory being hacked out in the dark.

The STE team informed the park wardens and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who rushed to the scene immediately. They discovered the body of Hope lying in the middle of the road, with tusks hacked out.


Hope's body with both of her tusks taken out

“Hope was one of the last old females from the Virtues family of elephants which STE has been studying for the last 15 years. The family has been decimated by poachers, with the chief matriarch, Resilience, sprayed with bullets and killed only last week,” said Douglas-Hamilton.

 

Last week, Resilience was spotted in great distress by tourists in the Samburu National Reserve. Her body had been sprayed with bullets, but she had managed to escape the poachers. Sadly, STE and KWS were forced to put her down because of the extent of her injuries.

 

The authorities are now on the hunt to catch the criminals, having extracted bullets from the bodies of both elephants.

 

These recent killings are just part of a spate of poaching in Kenya, and point to the precarious situation facing Africa’s elephants. As part of the Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) program, STE assess the cause of death of every elephant in Samburu to monitor poaching levels and population health. With the building of a road by a Chinese construction company in the area, we are finding more elephants poached for both for ivory and other body parts, possibly for Chinese medicine. Poachers are becoming far more organized and armed with sophisticated weapons and night vision equipment.


Hope's body lying in the middle of the road

It was feared that Hope’s three calves were also dead, being too young to look after themselves and not present in the area. The STE team followed the blood trail for 3 kms into impenetrable bush to try and help them. Thankfully, the calves managed to escape the poachers, and were discovered in the care of a breeding female, without any injuries.

 

Article & photos at:  http://www.savetheelephants.org/diary-reader/items/poachers-kill-a-grand-dame-of-a-great-elephant-family.html

Last modified on Tuesday, 26 April 2011 02:19

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