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  • 'The African elephant, the largest animal on Earth, is under threat.

  • 'Some herds are being decimated at an alarming rate.'

  • We're truly worried about the future of elephants.

  • Some places have lost almost all their elephants.

  • 'They are still being hunted for their ivory despite a trade ban in place for more than 20 years.'

  • Oh, yeah, here it is.

  • Ask him about the elephant that was killed.

  • These people are armed, very well armed - G3s, AK-47s.

  • 'Even the youngest are in the firing line.'

  • Kasigau over there has got a clear wound.

  • 'And seizures of illegal ivory are at a new high.'

  • What is at the heart of the illegal killing of elephants in Africa

  • can be summarised in one word - money.

  • How much is this one? 'We go under cover to find the ivory dealers.'

  • 10,000 for one?

  • 'We see the new technology being used to track down the criminals.'

  • These poachers are hammering the sam area over and over and over again.

  • 'We go on the trail of the poachers, smugglers and organised crime syndicates

  • 'into a web that stretches to south-east Asia and beyond...

  • 'to the biggest ivory buyer of all.'

  • 90% of all the people we have arrested at our airports ferrying ivory...

  • ..are Chinese.

  • China is the future for elephants. If China can curb its demand...

  • ..elephants will survive in Africa.

  • One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,

  • eight, nine, ten, all right?

  • 'But can this demand be stifled?

  • 'Or is it already too late?'

  • 'Port Klang near Kuala Lumpur. It's the busiest port in Malaysia

  • 'and the last stop for vessels heading to the Far East.'

  • SIREN WAILS

  • 'For three months, Customs have been tracking a container from Africa.

  • 'Intelligence has alerted them to contraband hidden deep within packing crates.

  • 'Inside, a shocking discovery.

  • 'Nearly one and a half tonnes of illegal ivory,

  • 'worth almost a million pounds, the equivalent of around 150 dead elephants.

  • 'And all this at a time when an international ban is supposed to stop the killing.'

  • We found that the container was full of...

  • Despite a 23-year international ban on the trade in ivory,

  • all indications are that demand is booming,

  • getting higher and higher each year.

  • Last year saw the highest number of large seizures of illegal ivory

  • for over two decades.

  • 'Up until the middle of last year, Malaysia hadn't made a single large ivory seizure in nearly a decade.

  • 'This is their fourth large bust in just five months.'

  • All we're doing here is stopping the smuggler

  • from getting his products. It's really good.

  • We need more of this, so we shut down the business.

  • 'Today, Malaysia is the latest country to emerge for ivory smuggling,

  • 'but it's just one of the many staging posts around the world

  • 'in a multi-million-pound criminal trade.'

  • It takes a large amount of organised activity to be able to move

  • and manoeuvre all these activities to the product ending up in Asia,

  • so one can assume it's organised crime.

  • 'So to understand the links in this chain, I'm going back to where it all begins - Africa.

  • 'Man has always hunted elephants here - for meat, sport and for ivory.

  • 'Its tusks were traditionally used in carvings, piano keys and even false teeth.

  • 'Today, some conservationists fear killings are so out of control

  • 'that elephants could soon disappear for ever in parts of the continent.

  • 'Kenya - a popular safari destination.

  • 'Tourism is essential to the country's economy,

  • 'but even here in Samburu in the north,

  • 'a place where elephants have recently thrived,

  • 'there are alarming new signs,

  • 'sickening images tourists rarely see.

  • 'I'm following the trail left by elephant poachers.'

  • We're on our way with Stephen, who is the conservation warden for the West Gate Community here,

  • because we've heard that there's an elephant which has been killed,

  • the carcass of which is, I think, not very far away.

  • Oh, yeah, here it is.

  • FLIES BUZZING

  • This was killed right here? It has been killed using bullets, a gun.

  • Six rounds.

  • Death always brings this disgusting, high, sweet smell

  • and it seems to sort of hit you in the stomach and cling to your skin and your hair,

  • but more than the smell, actually, it's the shocking sight of this adult female elephant

  • with her face having been hacked off because the poachers wanted to take the tusks.

  • 'Older elephants, due to the size of their tusks, are most vulnerable to the poachers' snares and guns.'

  • How old was this elephant?

  • So a full, mature...?

  • She was pregnant? Yes.

  • 'The warden thinks two poachers were involved in the slaughter.

  • 'Just a few feet away lie the remains of the elephant's dead baby.'

  • These are also the ribs. The ribs.

  • Oh, these are the ribs of the little elephant? Yeah.

  • You can see now. Yeah.

  • 'The carcass was found just outside the gates of Samburu National Reserve.

  • 'It's a base for Save The Elephants, a charity founded by Iain Douglas-Hamilton.

  • 'Iain witnessed the decimation of Kenya's herds in the 1970s and '80s when numbers plummeted.

  • 'They recovered after the ivory trade ban was agreed in 1989.

  • 'But in the last three years, Samburu has lost a quarter of its elephants,

  • 'in large part due to poaching.'

  • At the moment, we're having a poaching spike.

  • It's worse than it's ever been before.

  • This spike is very serious because if it got out of hand,

  • it would threaten not only elephants,

  • but also the communities around.

  • 'Poaching has an enormous impact on the herd as a whole.

  • 'Elephants live in a matriarchal family where females lead the group.'

  • They really live in a multi-tiered system

  • of many, many relationships radiatin out into the whole population.

  • We've been able to show through experiments

  • that a given female knows at least 100 other adult females just by voice alone.

  • The loss of any individual in a family is really profound, particularly adults.

  • When one of them dies, it is a major, major event

  • and you can see that they actually mourn the death.

  • Any calf that she has that is under the age of, say, two or three,

  • is definitely going to die

  • unless it's rescued somehow.

  • 'It's a constant battle to try and stay one step ahead of the criminals.

  • 'Gilbert Sabinga works for Save The Elephants.

  • 'He is mapping where poachers have been active as part of a system called MIKE.'

  • So all these red dots here...?

  • And there's a lot down here in this area.

  • 'Technology is a vital tool in monitoring and protecting the animals,

  • 'but it's a huge challenge in the 165-square-kilometre reserve.

  • 'Eight elephants are fitted with a satellite collar.

  • 'It sends text messages to a radio antenna and tracks their routes.

  • 'If the signal stops moving for a matter of hours, it could be a sign of a poacher in the area,

  • 'so the team spring into action.'

  • That's a warning sign?

  • 'Today, Gilbert wants to check up on two matriarchs

  • 'called Wendy...

  • 'and Mercury.

  • 'The team wants to make sure their herds are safe from poachers active in the area.'

  • So, Gilbert, you've just done the whole thing with the antenna and found not Wendy, but Mercury? Yeah.

  • And they're just the other side of the river here? Just this side of the river here.

  • 'First, we find a straggler separated from the group.'

  • We know that they must be around here somewhere because that young male elephant we just saw,

  • basically doubled back in this direction to try to find the rest of the herd.

  • Actually, the signal is very strong on that side.

  • 'Then suddenly, we spot the herd in the distance.

  • 'The family is all accounted for and safe from the poachers...for now.'

  • So there's Mercury. She's the head of this family.

  • You can see around her neck the collar with the beacon on top of it that's sending this signal.

  • That's how we've been able to trace her.

  • It's amazing seeing them with their little baby elephants and how protective they are towards them,

  • making sure that they travel in between two of the adults.

  • 'But some families are not as lucky as Mercury's.

  • 'Some of the poachers' youngest victims end up here - an elephant orphanage just outside Nairobi.

  • 'This morning, it's feeding time for the babies.

  • 'Tourists pay to see them up close. The money goes towards their upkeep,

  • 'along with funding for anti-poaching teams.'

  • KEEPER CALLS OUT TO ELEPHANTS

  • Come on. Come on.

  • 'Abdul is one of the orphanage's most experienced keepers.

  • 'He looks after the orphan Kihari and, as her surrogate mother,

  • 'feeds, washes and even sleeps beside her every night.'

  • These ones were about six months old They have witnessed maybe

  • their mother being killed by poachers.

  • When they come here, they are so traumatised, they are so sad.

  • Sometimes you'll see baby elephants staying away from the others, their head bowed down, not happy at all.

  • 'Poaching numbers have nearly doubled in the past year alone in Kenya.

  • 'The youngest are abandoned as their tusks don't show until around two or three years old.

  • 'They're of no value to the criminals.'

  • It's only when you get quite close to the elephants

  • that you see some of the wounds that were inflicted upon them.

  • Kasigau over there has got a clear wound just below his right eye

  • and Rombo has got a hole in one of his ears because of an arrow.

  • 'Abdul says the orphans have nightmares, reliving the poachers' attacks,

  • 'and so need constant reassurance.'

  • SLURPING

  • 'But when the elephants are reintroduced into the wild, they may be at the mercy of the hunters.

  • 'I'm on my way to see what the poachers are after - raw tusks.

  • 'They're locked away in the offices of the Kenyan Wildlife Service on the edges of Samburu.

  • 'It's a dangerous area. Just days before we arrived,

  • 'people were shot in cattle-rustling skirmishes.'

  • These captured tusks are at the very heart of this story of the trade in illegal ivory

  • and they're a really pitiful sight, not just because you see the smashed-up, blooded tusks,

  • but they're also a reminder that no elephant is spared,

  • from large bull elephants whose tusks weigh nearly 30 kilos to little baby elephants

  • whose tusks weigh no more than two kilos.

  • So how do these poachers operate?

  • It's 5am.

  • Andy Marshall, a former SAS officer, is head of security

  • in charge of a 50-strong army.

  • A dead elephant has been discovered on a private nature reserve of 100,000 acres.

  • The owner has been attacked by poachers.

  • Today, they are following a tip-off from an informer.

  • These people are armed, very well armed.

  • G3s, AK-47s, because with the price of ivory,

  • everyone is going to chance their luck.

  • Andy suspects criminals have buried tusks from an elephant they killed ten days earlier.

  • This morning, they hoped to catch one of the gang red-handed and recover the ivory.

  • But they're too late. The poachers fled the camp. Only a young boy is left behind.

  • The team hunts for clues on the gang's whereabouts.

  • Ask him about the elephant that was killed.

  • CONVERSATIION IN LOCAL LANGUAGE

  • What about his father? Does he know?

  • And the three men that came to get its tusks?

  • But the little boy seems too scared to help.

  • This trail leads nowhere, but poaching is drawing in communities across Africa.

  • You have local people going out to make money to feed their families and to survive,

  • so they're your on-the-ground poachers that are recruited,

  • then you have professional poachers

  • that are moving into different regions or provinces.

  • All tend to link in to the same distributors.

  • Zambia - southern Africa.

  • On the outskirts of the capital Lusaka, they're tracking down the distributors and criminals.

  • The authorities are stepping up enforcement in key nations all over Africa

  • and Zambia is one of them.

  • Interpol is launching its biggest ever operation against the illegal ivory trade,

  • involving 14 countries across the continent.

  • David Higgins is Interpol's man on the ground, advising the hard-pressed local law enforcement.

  • We want to detect, apprehend and suppress the criminal activities.

  • We want to be able to demonstrate that over the next nine days.

  • This road is the main smuggling route for ivory poached from the nearby national park into Lusaka.

  • Today, officers have set up a road block.

  • Good afternoon, sir. All right?

  • Please park over here.

  • The operation includes officers from the Zambian Wildlife Authority, local police and customs

  • and has been in planning for nearly a year.

  • We got a lot of intelligence information,

  • linking us to a lot of people in Lusaka,

  • some of them that are keeping ivory in their homes.

  • After three days, the first proper breakthrough.

  • Officers prepare to arrest a suspected smuggler they have been tracking for two weeks.

  • The officers are concerned he may be armed.

  • Hello? KNOCKS ON DOOR

  • Do you want me to break the door?

  • Open the door!

  • Please, sit down. Sit down.

  • CONVERSATION IN LOCAL LANGUAGE

  • The suspect is found with two raw tusks stashed under the bed, worth £2,000.

  • If found guilty, he could get anything from five to 15 years in jail.

  • The officers get a break as they get more information about the gang.

  • They set up a rendezvous with another of them, but they shoot the suspect's tyres as he tries to flee.

  • Inside his van, ivory, but more importantly,

  • a wealth of intelligence on the smuggling syndicate.

  • This guy, actually, it has taken us more than ten years to apprehend.

  • For years, officers have only known the suspect under an alias,

  • but now they hope to discover his true identity.

  • They take him to his home to search for details on his buyers and the rest of the network.

  • The phone might be of value to you. Oh, yes.