Wildlife rangers fight to save elephants from poaching extinction

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy have never lost elephants but lost six rhinos in a month to poachers Photo: ITV News

First came the sound of gunshots late at night.

Then, a few hours later, a rhino carcass was glimpsed - his bloodied face and mutilated body shielded by the long grass.

Before long, the stench of death was rising from what was now a crime scene.

The rangers at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy seemed almost unmoved. But they have seen it, heard it and smelt it too many times before.

Once again, this 60,000-acre park, home to one in eight of Kenya’s rhinos, had been struck by an armed gang.

Despite the helicopters, the dog handlers, the electric fencing and the hiring of a former British Army captain as chief executive, Lewa has struggled against the poachers, losing six rhinos over a four week period earlier this year.

The corpses of dead elephants in Tsavo East Park Credit: ITV News

It is a problem for parks across Africa, where some populations of rhino and elephant face extinction within decades. Gruesome killings, like the slaughter of a family of 12 elephants in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park last January, have caused shock but brought no solutions.

At least Lewa has a powerful supporter: This is where Prince William spent much of his gap year. It is where he proposed to Kate Middleton in 2010.

And it is here that he found another love, for the precious species that are under threat from the trade in ivory and rhino horn.

On Tuesday, William will challenge African ‘producer’ countries and Asian ‘consumer’ countries to end the slaughter. But what are the chances of real solutions?

Wildlife in South Africa Credit: ITV News

The words of a prince will mean little to the paupers who stalk the parks of Africa in search of a rhino horn which may be worth 30,000 pounds, more than its weight in gold.

Perhaps stiffer sentences in African countries will, but campaigners say that some are resisting pressure to punish those involved in the trade.

Park rangers inspect the dead corpse of a rhino Credit: ITV News

Then there's the question of how the meeting dignitaries can succeed where others have failed before, in choking demand in the Far East, where horns and tusks are said to have medicinal value?

Campaigners welcome the fact that the issue is being talked about at all, and they accept that solutions will take time.

But for the majestic creatures that roam Lewa, there may be little of that.