British troops train rangers to track down elephant killers in £17bn poaching network

British troops are helping African forces smash a £17billion-a-year animal poaching network.

The Royal Gurkha Rifles spent six weeks training rangers how to track down armed elephant killers plaguing Zambia’s wildlife.

Gangster networks have grown in the region and are making millions from the illegal tusk trade.

A 30-strong Gurkha unit has so far trained up 119 recruits from Zambia’s police, armed forces and National Parks Service.

UK troops conducted exercises in 8,600 square mile Kafue National Park, teaching tracking tactics, evidence gathering, leadership and medical aid.

Zambian rangers were also taught to use lightweight patrol packs and first aid kits to operate at great distances.

James Heappey, Armed Forces Minister, said: “The UK is committed to tackling the illegal wildlife trade, which destabilises communities across Zambia, and the wider continent.

“These deployments are also a learning opportunity for the soldiers, operating in challenging terrain and learning bush-craft from the rangers”.

The mission comes after four ­deployments of British troops to Malawi, where soldiers trained more than 200 rangers in Liwonde National Park.

The Malawi team helped to move two black rhinos which had been ­transported from South Africa to boost their population in the region.

Commanding officer Major James Marden said: “This unique operation was enhanced by being the first British counter-poaching training support mission in Zambia.”

The UK is leading global efforts to protect endangered animals and plants from poaching and has committed more than £36million to tackle the illegal wildlife trade until 2021.

International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith said: “The trade fuels corruption, impoverishes communities and threatens the existence of iconic animals. Many species are critically endangered because of this trade and the UK is committed to ending it.”