Updated Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 12:40 PM
NAIROBI, Kenya — A family of 11 elephants was slaughtered by ivory poachers and their tusks chopped off, Kenyan officials said Monday, in one of the worst single episodes of poaching in Kenya in recent years.
Kenyan officials said they discovered the 11 carcasses in Tsavo East National Park, one of the country’s tourism gems, underscoring the danger poaching presents not only to the species, but also to one of the cornerstones of the Kenyan economy.
“All the carcasses had bullet wounds,” said a statement from the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Kenya — like just about every other country in Africa where elephants roam — has been besieged by increasingly wily and ruthless elephant poachers, driven by the soaring demand for ivory in Asia.
A pound of ivory can now fetch more than $1,000 on the streets of Beijing, and as a result, tens of thousands of elephants are being slaughtered across Africa, more than at any other point in decades.
“We’ve seen nothing as bad as this since the 1980s,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, a renowned elephant researcher in Kenya who has been studying elephants for decades. “We’re right back to where we were.”
Several African rebel groups are now using ivory to finance their mayhem, and some U.S.-backed African militaries have also been implicated in wiping out elephants. Much of the ivory is turned into bookmarks, chopsticks and other trinkets.
KAREL PRINSLOO / AP
In this March 9, 2010 photo, Kenya Wildlife Ranger Mohamed Kamanya is seen in front of a herd of elephants in the Tsavo East national park, Kenya.