Poison-Arrow Killings Surge in Africa Elephant Poaching

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"When you shoot an elephant—that loud bang—people will hear it," said Patrick Omondi, head of species conservation at the Kenya Wildlife Service.

"You shoot this elephant with a poisoned arrow, then they follow the elephant until it dies, and then they pluck out the ivory," Omondi said. "It's a soft way of killing."

In 2008 the Kenya Wildlife Service reported 98 elephants killed for their ivory, double the 2007 figure, Omondi said.

Conservationists from the Amboseli Trust and Kenya Wildlife Service link the rise in attacks to demand from Chinese workers constructing a road near Amboseli National Park and to lucrative trade across the border into Tanzania.

(Read: "Ton of Illegal Ivory, Hippo Teeth Seized in Kenya.")

The wildlife service has launched an investigation into the trade and is collecting evidence in hopes of arresting those involved, Omondi said.

In a recent interview with a local East African newspaper, Chinese embassy spokesperson Liu Bo denied that Chinese in Kenya are smuggling ivory.

Threatened But Healthy

Officials estimate that 1,600 elephants currently live in the Amboseli region. While the attacks are disturbing, the local population remains healthy, conservationists say.

"The threat is there—the indication is that there is a high demand for ivory," Omondi said.

"But it has not hit the elephants in a way that we are going to lose our Amboseli elephants."

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