Kenyan rangers kill five poachers, seize tusks, guns

NAIROBI, April 21 Sat Apr 21, 2012 5:52am EDT

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NAIROBI, April 21 (Reuters) - Kenyan rangers killed five poachers in a clash in the Rift Valley early on Saturday and recovered elephant tusks and weapons, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said.

Poaching in Kenya has declined significantly since the 1980s and 1990s when gangs nearly decimated its elephant and rhino populations, but there has been an upsurge in recent years.

The KWS said last month it had increased its efforts to hunt down poachers and had killed six poachers this year who were hunting for elephant, buffalo and rhino.

"Two rangers were injured in the 1 a.m. incident," the KWS said in a statement on the clash with the poachers in northwest Kenya. "Elephant tusks weighing 50 kg were recovered as well as three AK-47 rifles and 15 rounds of ammunition."

Ivory from African elephants is typically smuggled to Asia where it is carved into ornaments, while rhino horn is used in traditional medicine and has even gained a reputation for curing cancer - a claim scientists have dismissed.

The KWS says poachers are killing around 100 elephants a year in Kenya, often operating in increasingly sophisticated gangs.

(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Tim Pearce)

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