As vigilant as we are when it comes to protecting our community and the wildlife surrounding us, tragedy still finds us at times. On Friday, January 13th, elephant poachers opened fired on our unarmed conservation rangers who were patrolling the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project area in Kenya. One of our rangers, Abdullahi Mohammed, was fatally shot and another ranger, Ijema Funan, was injured by the gunfire.
At the time, our rangers, along with members of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), were tracking the poachers after discovering a wounded elephant in the protected project area. “This is the first time in 15 years that any of our rangers have been killed in the line of duty, and it reflects an escalation in violence caused by the increasing demand for ivory in the far eastern markets, especially China,” said Wildlife Works founder, Mike Korchinsky.
With each passing day, we hear good news following this senseless act of violence. Two of the gang of three elephant poachers were arrested in Makinnon Road on Sunday afternoon, January 15, and they are helping us with the ongoing investigation as well as providing us with essential information concerning the shooting.
One of the two arrested men led our rangers and the Kenyan Police to the place where the rifle and ammunition had been buried. The rifle was wrapped in a pair of trousers and buried under a bush on Taita Ranch, which must have been the route the poachers took to exit the sanctuary after the fatal contact. We believe this is the rifle that shot at our rangers two days ago because it was recently fired and kept in very good condition.
Although this is not the end of this chapter, we feel confident that justice will prevail, as we continue to work diligently to ensure that everyone is caught and security is restored within the Kasigau Corridor. As we continue our investigation, we are happy to report that Ijema, the injured Wildlife Works ranger, is comfortable, eating well, and seems to be on his way to a full recovery.
In the aftermath and as we move forward, our VP of African Operations, Rob Dodson, would like to thank all of the Wildlife Works staff in Kenya for the countless hours you are putting in to ensure that justice is being served and the community remains safe and secure. He would also like to thank Eric, who led the operation to find the buried weapon, along with his team – Elem, Moses, Eregai and the rest of the rangers who have barely slept over the last 72 hours.
“This appalling and heart wrenching incident underscores the real threat to the community and wildlife of this region. As long as an illegal market for ivory remains, they are in grave danger, so we will continue to support brave Kenyans in their struggle to protect their local environment. We will never forget the sacrifice that Abdullahi Mohammed, Ijema Funan and their families made today in the name of wildlife conservation.” – Mike Korchinsky, founder and CEO of Wildlife Works