NAIROBI, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's wildlife authorities said on Monday its rangers killed three suspected poachers, with four firearms recovered in two separate incidents in Isiolo and Tsavo, northeast Kenya in the past week.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said more suspects are on the run in both incidents, during which five elephants were killed.
"In the latest incident last night, Kenya Wildlife Service rangers gunned down a suspected bandit in a fierce exchange of fire on the outskirts of Meru National Park in the expansive Isiolo County," said KWS Corporate Communications Manager Paul Udoto.
He said a major operation is underway to arrest other suspects on the run. They are believed to have sustained injuries from last night's shoot-out. "Two AK 47 rifles and 30 rounds of ammunition were recovered in the incident at Moliti area, 10 km from Kinna Trading Centre in Garbatulla District, Isiolo County," he said.
The suspects had shot dead an elephant at 1500 GMT and were in the process of hacking off the tusks using axes when the KWS rangers ambushed them.
Udoto said one KWS ranger was injured in the right shoulder during the shoot-out.
He said plans are being made to airlift the injured ranger to Nairobi for specialized treatment in the course of the day.
Meanwhile, Udoto said a suspected poacher is being interrogated by the police after being arrested in an incident on Tuesday last week where two of his accomplices were killed. Three others escaped and one AK 47 rifle was recovered. "KWS rangers engaged the suspected poachers in a shoot-out in Galana ADC Ranch, and killed two of them on Tuesday. They recovered two pieces of ivory buried in the sand. The suspects were found with five more pieces," he said.
The suspect in custody was arrested on Oct. 30 in Ngao area of Garsen district in the coast with a G 3 rifle, having walked 100 km from the scene of poaching.
KWS has listed elephants, lions, wild dogs, leopards, cheetah, hyenas, Sitatunga, Tana crested mangabey, and Tana red colobus monkeys as some of the most endangered wildlife species in Kenya.
The number of elephants has reduced from a high of 160,000 in 1970s to the current 30,000. KWS said between the 1970s and 1980s Kenya lost over 80 percent of its elephants, mainly due to intensive poaching of elephants for ivory.
Also affected are the black rhinos whose number declined from 20,000 in 1970 to the current 577. The population of grey zebra declined from 13,500 in the late 1970s to just over 2,000 by 2007.