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Fighting to save Africa's rhinos

Wildlife Rangers are on the frontline of the battle to save elephants and rhinos from poaching gangs. The illegal trade in rhino horn, highlighted by Prince William earlier this year, is threatening the very existence of the creatures. NBC's  Rohit Kachroo reports on the work of the round-the-clock patrols at Lewa National Park.

By Rohit Kachroo, Correspondent, NBC News

First came the sound of gunshots late at night.

Then, a few hours later, a carcass was found -- his bloodied face and mutilated body shielded by the long grass. 

Before long, the stench of death was rising from what was now a crime scene.

The rangers at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy seemed almost unmoved. But they have seen it, heard it and smelled it too many times before.


Once again, this 60,000-acre park -- home to one in eight of Kenya’s rhinos -- has been struck by an armed gang.

Despite the helicopters, the dog handlers, the electric fencing and the hiring of a former British Army captain as chief executive, Lewa has struggled with the poachers, losing six rhinos over a four-week period earlier this year.

It is a problem for parks across Africa, where some populations of rhino and elephant face extinction within decades. Gruesome killings, like the slaughter of a family of 12 elephants in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park last January, have caused shock but brought no solutions.

At least Lewa has a powerful supporter. This is where Prince William spent much of his gap year.  It is where he proposed to Kate Middleton in 2010. And it is here that he found another love: the precious species that are under threat from the trade in ivory and rhino horn.

On Tuesday, William will challenge African "producer" countries and Asian "consumer" countries to end the slaughter. But what is the chance of a real solution?

The words of a prince will mean little to the paupers who stalk the parks of Africa in search of a rhino horn which may be worth 30,000 pounds – more than its weight in gold. 

Perhaps stiffer sentences in African countries will make a difference -- but campaigners say that some are resisting pressure to punish those involved in the trade.

Then there's the question of how the meeting dignitaries can succeed in choking demand in the Far East, where others have failed before -- and where horns and tusks are said to have medicinal value.

Campaigners welcome the fact that the issue is being talked about at all -- and they accept that solutions will take time.

But for the majestic creatures that roam Lewa, there may be little of that.