The reason for the poaching, which is illegal by international law, is for the tusks of these animals, which can sell in China for as much as $1,000 a pound. The poachers hunting these animals are well trained, well armed, well financed militia units who are hunting the animals in order to finance their political, terrorist, or militia groups. These tusks are sold to a middle-man, then make their way to the far East. Those protecting the animals located in these large national parks, are well intentioned conservationists and scientists who often have no military training and are simply outmatched when confronted by poaching groups. Last year dozens of rangers were murdered while trying to stop groups of poachers from killing elephants.
According to the Kenyan authorities, 350 elephants were poached last year; however many feel that this number represents just a fraction of the true number.
Besides the African Elephant, poachers are also targeting rhinoceroses in southern Africa. The rhino horns which weigh about ten pounds can sell for as much as $30,000 on the black market. These animals are even more rare than the elephant, and the real tragedy of the murder of these creatures is that rhino horns will grow back if the horns are cut from above the base, and if done properly, causes no pain to the animal.
Wildlife advocates worry that if something is not done to stop the well armed poaching armies, both species of animals will very quickly reach extinction.