Ivory investigator killed in Kenya

© M. Sanjayan

Above: Elephants pause for a drink at a watering hole in Kenya's Chyulu Hills. (© M. Sanjayan)

One of the world’s top investigators into the illegal ivory trade was killed Sunday.

Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, former UN special envoy for rhino conservation, was found dead in his home in Nairobi with a stab wound to his neck, Alastair Leithead reported for the BBC.

Martin spent his career photographing and documenting the illegal sales of ivory and rhino horn throughout China and Southeast Asia. His work — much of it undercover — helped to shed light on market demand for illegally traded ivory.

The news of Martin’s death shocked the conservation world.

“Esmond Bradley Martin was a brilliant and vocal investigator whose work helped uncover the ivory and rhino horn trade,” said Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International. “His wish would have been for all of us to redouble our efforts and end this miserable trade once and for all.”

Governments are tightening the global crackdown on the ivory trade, as Hong Kong banned the sale of ivory on Jan. 31 and the United Kingdom considers making a similar move.

The motive for Martin’s killing is unclear. In any case, his death highlighted concerns faced by those who fight to protect nature.

“Though the circumstances around his death are undetermined, we know that defenders of nature all too often face significant risk around the world,” Sanjayan said. “In the last year alone, we lost almost 200 of these brave champions as they fought for the nature we all depend upon. We owe these defenders our gratitude and our support.”

Read more about Martin here.

Morgan Lynch is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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