He now fears that many more of the elephants who were not fitted with global positioning systems (GPS) could also have fallen victim to ivory poachers. He said:“We’ve uncovered a poaching crisis near Mount Kenya that we didn’t know about before.”
Mr Douglas-Hamilton said the mountain’s dense forest made it difficult for rangers to patrol and protect elephants which do not have GPS collars.
Save The Elephants official Lucy King said the charity suspects the rise in poaching in northern Kenya is linked to a surge in demand for ivory in Asia.
She said:“We’re seeing a lot of Chinese nationals caught in the airport in Kenya with ivory in their luggage. We have to assume the Chinese are involved at some level.”
Kenya has more than 30,000 elephants and poaching poses a long-term threat.
The first killing came in October,the same month William and Kate travelled to a safari lodge where they fished in a nearby pond and huddled up for chilly nights at high altitude. It’s not known publicly if the two saw any elephants on their trip,but one of the four poached animals died only five miles from their cabin,Ms King said.
An elephant named Marani was shot dead in October. A second was shot in February. Two others were killed last month;one was shot and the other died in a snare.
Mr Douglas-Hamilton described the torment of the snared elephant.
He said a team member hiked through thick mountain terrain and two gorges to find its starved corpse. He said:“She had been snared with a big rope round her leg and was tied to a tree.
“In her last days the elephant had thrashed around and flattened the vegetation,but he found her emaciated. She must have died of lack of food and water.”
Susie Weeks,who lives near the 17,057ft mountain where she works with The Mount Kenya Trust,said snaring and trapping was now “rife”in the area. She said ivory poaching only began on the mountain in 2009 but had steadily increased. “Although the snares seem to be laid for smaller game,such as buffalo,we find dead elephant calves in these brutal and indiscriminate traps,and amputated or snared calves wandering around with serious infections they cannot possibly survive,”she said.
Save the Elephants tracks the real-time movements of elephants it equips with GPS collars,and the animals’paths are traced on a special Google Earth mapping programme.