A gang of poachers killed 11 members of an elephant family on Saturday in Kenya's Tsavo East National Park, the BBC reported.
It is the single worst mass elephant shooting recorded in Kenya's history.
GlobalPost Senior Correspondent in Kenya Tristan McConnell said Kenya's elephant herds are among the best protected on the planet, making this recent slaughter — inside a national park — a grave concern for conservationists.
"Leading animal protection experts are increasingly comparing the current situation to that in the 1970s and 80s before the world ban on the ivory trade was put in place when Africa's elephants were pushed to the brink of survival," McConnel said.
The Kenya Wildlife Service said in a statement, “The entire family of 11 elephants have been confirmed poached and tusks chopped off. All the carcasses had bullet wounds."
The wildlife group's spokesman, Paul Udo, told Reuters, "Shows the great lengths these criminal cartels are ready to go to get ivory. It's really tragic."
In 1989 it became illegal to shoot an elephant for ivory, but that hasn't stopped its trade. A loophole in the law permits the sale of ivory that came from elephants killed before the ban went into action. Today, ivory is still used in traditional medicines, home decor and even for chopsticks.
The BBC reported that around 100 elephants are killed by poachers in Kenya every year.
Ivory demand from Asia — especially in China — has recently increased. In October, authorities in Hong Kong seized a whopping four tons of illegal African ivory. The ivory had an estimated worth around $3.4 million when it was seized in shipping containers. The haul reportedly originated in Kenya and Tanzania, according to the BBC.
Rangers are currently searching for suspects in the latest slaughter.
Last year, GlobalPost visited an elephant sanctuary in Maine. Learn more in the video below:
Follow Tristan McConnell @t_mcconnell, who contributed reporting.