Four Rangers Killed by Poachers While Protecting Elephants

Video highlights from Explorer: Warlords of Ivory

The men died during a gun fight in Congo’s Garamba National Park

Four rangers have been shot by poachers at Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The men, tasked with protecting the park’s elephants, tracked the collar of a poached elephant to a poacher’s camp.

Gunfire followed and, finding they were outnumbered, the group of ten rangers retreated, but only six made it to safety.

The bodies of the four rangers were recovered when a reinforced patrol team was able to reach the site of the incident on Thursday.

This latest incident brings the year’s death toll at Garamba to eight.

"We have increasingly and more fiercely started to expand our protection zone to cover the whole park in the last six months and this has obviously brought us in to a number of confrontations with various armed groups,” said Garamba's park manager Erik Mararv

The national park has long been home to various poaching and terrorist groups including the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army, commanded by Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony.

Experts estimate there are around 30-35,000 African elephants killed by poachers every year, which has contributed to dramatic declines in elephant populations.

If current poaching rates continue, elephants could be extinct in as little as two decades.

National Geographic recently launched a Special Investigations Unit that will investigate and report on wildlife crime.

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