The ongoing fight to protect elephants in Africa's Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed the lives of four park rangers in a shootout with poachers, according to the park's blog.

The men, identified as Anselme Kimbesa Muhindo, Andre Gada Migifuloyo and Djuma Adalu Uweko, and Colonel Jacques Sukamate Lusengo, leave behind a total of 14 children, the park said. 

The firefight with the poachers started after a group of 10 park rangers tracked a collar that had been attached to a poached elephant  to the poachers' camp. Outnumbered, the rangers retreated. Some were rescued by helicopter, but four didn't make it.

Despite extensive efforts by the Garamba park management team to elicit reinforcements from other international forces in the region in order to help retrieve the four missing men, and track and apprehend the poachers, very little support or assistance was forthcoming.

According to National Geographic, "A booming Chinese middle class with an insatiable taste for ivory, crippling poverty in Africa, weak and corrupt law enforcement, and more ways than ever to kill an elephant have created a perfect storm." 

More than 30,000 African elephants are killed annually, with most of the Ivory headed to China "where a pair of ivory chopsticks can bring more than a thousand dollars and carved tusks sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars." 

Garamba said that the four men killed this week brings the total number of ranger deaths this year to eight. 

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