Four men gave their lives on Monday, October 5, 2015 in an effort to stop more elephants from dying. According to officials with Congo’s Garamba National Park, a group of 10 men had been tracking the signal from a slaughtered elephants’ collar when it led them to a poachers’ camp. They found themselves outnumbered, and the poachers opened fire on them.

A helicopter was deployed to rescue six of the men, one of whom had injuries. It was damaged by gunfire and was unable to go back for the other four men. Their bodies were recovered on Thursday.

The dead included three rangers, Anselme Kimbesa Muhindo, Andre Gada Migifuloyo and Djuma Adalu Uweko, and Colonel Jacques Sukamate Lusengo, a member of the Congolese Armed Forces who was assisting them. According to African Parks, they left behind their wives and 14 children.

There’s little doubt that illegal elephant hunting is devastating to wild elephants; the African elephant population has dropped from several million at the turn of the century to roughly 500,000 today, largely due to the ivory trade. It’s estimated that 100,000 were killed between 2010 and 2012 alone.

But the human toll is often vastly underestimated. Many poachers have ties to criminal organizations, including narcotics cartels and even terrorist groups, throughout Africa and Asia, which are inherently dangerous to the men affiliated with them.

But it’s also dangerous to men like these, who were innocent people who just wanted to save elephants. Instead, the death toll for poaching just got a little bit higher.

« Our sincere condolences go to the families of the four men who tragically lost their loved ones while they were bravely eliminating the scourge of elephant poaching from Garamba National Park, said Peter Fearnhead, CEO African Parks.  » This brings to eight the number of people who have lost their lives in Garamba in 2015 alone.”

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