Four elephants including two infants have been killed and 10 others wounded during a series of spear attacks close to a Kenyan game park.
Joseph Kimojino: Years of Masai Mara co-operation threatened Among the dead was a four-month-old female calf who had been speared 14 times.
Odile was the victim of a similar spear attack in 2003,
she survived and later gave birth to a calf
Conservationists were today still searching for two other older males spotted with head wounds including one who had a spear still embedded in his skull. The pair have disappeared into the bush since the attacks.
The raids are understood to be part of a long-running dispute over land and water between Masai villagers and a conservation area set up for tourist safaris close to Amboseli National Reserve, 130 miles south of Nairobi in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.
"It is very painful for us to see this kind of thing happening and not really knowing why," said Soila Sayialel, project manager of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project.
"It seems to be an effort by the villagers to show their anger because they are being stopped from bringing their cows into the conservation area where there is a lot of good pasture at the moment."
Kenya's recent post-election violence has played a part because young Masai men who would usually be hawking gifts to tourists on the coast have returned to their villages as visitors have dried up.
"There is the underlying issue here of competition for land use, but we never see anything like these kinds of spear attacks when there is a tourism boom," said Mrs Sayialel. The raids took place on February 22 and 25, she said.
Kenya had one of the worst reputations for its wildlife management in the 1980s when poachers killed tens of thousands of elephants for their ivory.
Since then, the Kenya Wildlife Service has made great progress fighting against the poachers and the country is at the forefront of the campaign to keep an international ban on trading ivory.
But conservationists have warned that ivory poaching is soaring in conflict areas including Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where rebel armies are using money from tusks to buy weapons.
"We have evidence that janjaweed fighters killed 100 elephants in a single day in a national park in Chad," said Michael Wamithi, head of the elephant programme at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw).
"People are not dealing in one or two tusks anymore, it is not efficient and they are likely to be found by the authorities.
"But instead what we are seeing is something much more planned and organised, being carried out to bring money for these people to buy weapons."
Meanwhile three lions were killed in just four days in the Amboseli bringing the total to 10 in less than eight months.
The remains of one of the lions, which had been skinned
The last two lions were speared on Sunday March 9 on a Masai group ranch adjacent to world famous Amboseli National Park.
One died immediately, while the other died the following day.
"Rangers were immediately deployed to the area given that the skin and teeth of one of the lions was missing," says Patrick Omondi, Head of Species, Conservation and Management for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Since 2001, at least 162 lions have been killed in the Amboseli region, although it is believed that many have not been reported.
Ironically the lions were killed just days after predator specialists met to address Kenya's dwindling population of lions.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has raised the alarm following a drastic drop from 10,000 in the 1970s to 2,010 lions today. Specialists believe that this is directly due to killings by humans.
Elephants killed by spear attacks in Kenya - Telegraph