Category: Tech / Sci / January 16, 2013 11:14 AM EST
Wildlife officials are worried as police on the Kenyan coast seized two tons of ivory worth 100 million shillings ($1.15 million) on Tuesday (January 15), the biggest haul on record in the east African country.
Poaching is a growing problem for sub-Saharan African countries reliant on rich wildlife in their game reserves to draw foreign tourists.
Heavily-armed criminals kill elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns, which are used for ornaments and in some folk medicines.
Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) director William Kiprono blames the rise in poaching on Far East countries.
"The price of ivory and rhino horn continues to rise by the day leading to increased poaching of elephants and rhinos. Growing affluence and economic growth in the Far East and South-East Asian countries has increased demand for natural resources, including an increased demand for wildlife and wildlife products," said Kiprono.
On January 5, 2013, poachers killed a family of 11 elephants in the biggest single mass shooting of the animals on record in Kenya.
"Only last week, a gang of 10 poachers are believed to have slaughtered and carted off ivory from a family of elephants at the remote Bisadi area near Ithumba in north of Tsavo East National Park. One of the discovered carcasses belongs to a juvenile elephant estimated at two months of age. All the carcasses had bullet wounds. One suspect has since been arrested and is assisting with ongoing investigations," Kiprono added.
Kenya's wildlife, which draws tourists from around the world, has suffered from poaching, severe drought and floods in recent years.
In 2012, Kenya lost 384 elephants and 19 rhinos to poaching compared to 289 elephants and 29 rhinos poached in year 2011.