The Kenya Wildlife Service has launched a ground and air operation to look for armed poachers who killed nine elephants and injured a ranger at Tsavo National Park last week.
Moses Lesambeki was shot by the gang while they were patrolling the Mbale ranch in Tsavo National Park in Taita Taveta. The rangers found the poachers slaughtering elephants in the ranch on Wednesday morning and a shootout ensued.
Six pieces of ivory were later found in the bush after the gang had fled. Assistant director in-charge of the Tsavo Conservation Wilson Korir yesterday said Lesambeki is in stable condition and the gang a strong team of KWS foot, canine and aerial units are pursuing the gang in the ranch.
"We are closing in on the gang. We have gathered all their information and we shall soon get them," he said. They came close to catching up with the gang on Sunday but were hampered by heavy rains.
"We know that they fled towards Mackinon," he said. Information from KWS indicated that the number of the gang was not immediately established but initial reports indicated two poachers shot at the rangers before fleeing towards Kuranze ranch.
Last week, KWS director William Kiprono visited Lesambeki at the hospital and applauded KWS rangers for putting their lives on line to protect wildlife.
More than 60 elephants have been killed in the Tsavo Conservation this year. KWS will celebrate Conservation Heroes Day on December 16 to honour rangers who have died in the line of duty. A monument and a ranger statue has been put up and unveiled at its headquarters in Nairobi in their honour.