Top ivory investigator Esmond Bradley Martin killed in Kenya

Esmond Bradley Martin, American geographer and world’s leading conservationist whose reports on illegal rhino horn and ivory trade served as a wake-up call to countries like China, was found stabbed to death in his home in Langata, Kenya, on Sunday afternoon. He was 76 years old.

Martin’s wife Chryssee Martin, who reported the death, told police she found her husband’s lifeless body with a stab wound in the neck after she came home from a nature walk around 4 pm.

Nairobi Police Chief Japheth Koome said four suspects were arrested on Monday afternoon and are being questioned.

Martin was working on a new report to expose Myanmar’s emerging role in the illegal wildlife trade when he was killed. It is unclear whether his murder was related to his latest work or just a crime.

Martin, who had been living in Kenya for decades, focused on the demand end of the illegal rhino horn and ivory supply chain. His meticulous, ground-breaking investigations analysed the illegal trade in Asian markets in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos and elsewhere.

His works made China shut down its legal rhino horn trade in 1993 and legal ivory markets last year, said Paula Kahumbu, a leading Kenyan elephant expert and chief executive of Wildlife Direct, a conservation group.

Iain Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants, a conservation and research organisation that funded and published Martin’s reports over many years, described him, as “one of conservation’s great unsung heroes”.

Martin had once served as the UN Special Envoy on rhino conservation.

Poaching has killed an estimated 110,000 elephants over the last decade, with transnational organised crime syndicates taking over the illicit trade.