Juvenile African bush elephant in Kenya. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Abdullahi Mohammed, an wildlife ranger, was killed in the line of duty in Kenya this weekend by elephant poachers. A ranger with the conservation organization Wildlife Works, Mohammed was shot by poachers in Wildlife Works Kasigau Corridor project, a REDD program (Reduced Emissions From Deforestation and Degradation).
“This is the first time in 15 years that any of our rangers have been killed in the line of duty, and it reflects an escalation in violence caused by the increasing demand for ivory in the far eastern markets, especially China,” Mike Korchinsky, Founder and CEO of Wildlife Works, said in a press release.
Mohammed, who was unarmed, was tracking poachers along with other rangers with Wildlife Works and the Kenya Wildlife Service (WCS) after finding a wounded African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana). Another Wildlife Works ranger, Ijema Funan, was also shot, but is expected to cover. The poachers escaped and have not been apprehended to date.
Kasigua Corridor is located between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks. Currently around 450 elephants are found in the project among many other native species. The project first earned REDD credits last year.
“This appalling and heart wrenching incident underscores the real threat to the community and wildlife of this region. As long as an illegal market for ivory remains, they are in grave danger, so we will continue to support brave Kenyans in their struggle to protect their local environment. We will never forget the sacrifice that Abdullahi Mohammed, Ijema Funan and their families made today in the name of wildlife conservation,” Korchinsky said at Mohammed’s funeral.
In recent years elephant and rhino poaching has escalated across Africa. Ivory is a status symbol in China, and demand for tusks has surged with economic growth as the newly rich seek to buy ivory chopsticks, hairpins, traditional name seals, and other luxury items. In 2005, CITES Secretariat ranked China as “the single most important influence on the increasing trend in illegal trade in ivory since 1995.” The international ivory trade was banned in 1989.
African bush elephants are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, which considers all African elephants as a single species. The major threats facing African elephants today include loss of habitat, human-elephant conflict, and poaching.
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