In an attack that wildlife officials are calling one of the worst in years, six elephants were shot dead in Kenya's Tsavo East National Park over the weekend. Three suspected poachers are in custody following a manhunt and gunfight with guards at the private reserve, who discovered the discarded carcasses of two adult and four juvenile elephants on Friday. Park officials are calling the poaching incident a "revenge attack," as the calves that were slaughtered had not yet developed their ivory tusks. Without tusks, the elephants had no monetary value to the poachers.
"We had arrested 15 poachers the previous week for killing an elephant in the same area but they were released on bond by a court in Voi," William Kiprono, head of the Kenya Wildlife Service, told the Daily Nation. "We suspect they could have poached these elephants in revenge because if it was about the tusks, why kill the four juveniles?"
The area where the six elephants were poached, on the Kenya-Tanzania border, also saw a massive poaching incident last year, when a family of 12 elephants was killed by a ten-person gang. The Kenya Wildlife Service estimates the approximately 65 elephants have been poached this year in the country, which is home to 38,000 of the endangered pachyderms; 11,000 live in Tsavo National Park alone. The park is one of the largest animal sanctuaries in the world.