• Photographer Gary Roberts spent time with conservationists and scientists in Tanzania and Kenya over two years
  • They paint a bleak future for the wildlife of Africa and he has highlighted this with poignant collection of images
  • When Mr Roberts visited Africa 25 years ago there were 200,000 wild lions – now that number stands at 20,000
  • This is due to human encroachment and the lucrative poaching trade that is becoming increasingly hard to prevent

Thomas Burrows for MailOnline

These poignant pictures of Africa’s biggest beasts in the wild show how fragile their lives are in the face of poachers, human encroachment and trophy hunters. 

In the haunting selection captured by British photographer Gary Roberts, he highlights the dangers faced by the anti-poaching patrol as they try desperately to protect elephants, zebras, lions and cheetahs from the money-hungry poachers.

The photographer’s extensive work in Tanzania and Kenya brought him into contact with conservationists and experts in the region, who paint a bleak future for the dwindling wildlife of Africa. 

In his upcoming book, he gathered together these different ‘Voices’ and noted their fears, hopes and wishes in the uphill fight for the survival of the African wildlife. 

This haunting image shows warehouses full of elephant skulls, and giraffes caught by snares. This storeroom full of elephant skulls collected up after illegal poaching activities shows how widespread the problem has become 

This haunting image shows warehouses full of elephant skulls, and giraffes caught by snares. This storeroom full of elephant skulls collected up after illegal poaching activities shows how widespread the problem has become 

Photographer Gary Roberts hopes his hard-hitting images will highlight the extent of the crisis and the need for immediate action

Photographer Gary Roberts hopes his hard-hitting images will highlight the extent of the crisis and the need for immediate action

A simple wire snare made from barbed wire or a bicycle brake wire, can cost less than one dollar to make, but are deadly for big cats

A simple wire snare made from barbed wire or a bicycle brake wire, can cost less than one dollar to make, but are deadly for big cats

Poachers will sometimes poison animal carcasses to avoid any circling vultures from alerting game-wardens to their activities

Poachers will sometimes poison animal carcasses to avoid any circling vultures from alerting game-wardens to their activities

Mr Roberts, who has visited Africa for 20 years, said the global lion population has fallen from 450,000 in the 1940s to 20,000 today

Mr Roberts, who has visited Africa for 20 years, said the global lion population has fallen from 450,000 in the 1940s to 20,000 today

A David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust anti-poaching patrol and Kenyan Wildlife Services work to track down a haul of illegal snares from Tsavo National Park

A David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust anti-poaching patrol and Kenyan Wildlife Services work to track down a haul of illegal snares from Tsavo National Park

More than 33,000 elephants are poached each year, or one every 20 minutes, as poachers try to get their tusks 

More than 33,000 elephants are poached each year, or one every 20 minutes, as poachers try to get their tusks 

Speaking to MailOnline, Mr Roberts said: ‘I am 50 and I first came to Africa when I was in my mid-20s. Then, the number of wild lions was at 200,000 but now it is 20,000, so there has been a 90 per cent decline. 

‘This should be looked at as a world problem as otherwise there will not be any in 10 to 15 years time. And once they have gone you won’t be able to repopulate them, it will just be gone forever.’ 

Alarmingly, even smaller numbers exist for some of the other big five game, including the African elephant, black rhinoceros and leopard. 

More than 33,000 elephants are poached each year, or one every 20 minutes.

To poachers, this Black Rhino's horn is worth its weight in gold or cocaine and anti-poachers have to work round the clock to protect them

To poachers, this Black Rhino’s horn is worth its weight in gold or cocaine and anti-poachers have to work round the clock to protect them

Lions spend most of the day sleeping and resting with the remaining four to six hours spent hunting, courting or protecting territory

Lions spend most of the day sleeping and resting with the remaining four to six hours spent hunting, courting or protecting territory

The US ivory market is ranked second in the world, behind China - Mr Roberts hopes his book will help highlight the scale of the problem

The US ivory market is ranked second in the world, behind China – Mr Roberts hopes his book will help highlight the scale of the problem

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has hand raised over 150 infant elephants, reintegrating them back into the wild herds of Tsavo (left) while
Leopards use their amazing tree climbing skills to hoist prey, often as big as themselves, up into a tree, to keep their kill away

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has hand raised over 150 infant elephants, reintegrating them back into the wild herds of Tsavo (left) while (right) leopards use their amazing tree climbing skills to hoist prey, often as big as themselves, up into a tree, to keep their kill away 

Elephants have very long eyelashes to help prevent sand or debris from blowing into their eyes

Elephants have very long eyelashes to help prevent sand or debris from blowing into their eyes

A lion can run for short distances at 50mph and leap as far as 36 feet - but these pictures may be confined to books in future years

A lion can run for short distances at 50mph and leap as far as 36 feet – but these pictures may be confined to books in future years

Unlike tigers, lions are not natural hunters around water, unless there is the better chance of a meal from it slowing down their prey more than them

Unlike tigers, lions are not natural hunters around water, unless there is the better chance of a meal from it slowing down their prey more than them

Charcoal meets 80 per cent of East African Household energy needs, but is also leading to rampant deforestation

Charcoal meets 80 per cent of East African Household energy needs, but is also leading to rampant deforestation

A young lion is spotted making eye contact with a Thomson gazelle - these pictures from the African wildlife could become a thing of the past if the poachers continue in the same vein 

A young lion is spotted making eye contact with a Thomson gazelle – these pictures from the African wildlife could become a thing of the past if the poachers continue in the same vein 

A pride of Lions on the Serengeti planning their next kill - their numbers have been reduced by 90 per cent in the last 25 years

A pride of Lions on the Serengeti planning their next kill – their numbers have been reduced by 90 per cent in the last 25 years

He added: ‘As you can see from the pictures, it’s a pretty desperate situation. One of the really poignant moments was seeing a lion which had been snared which I came across in the middle of the bush. That’s a symbol of what is happening in general.

‘The demand for the poaching trade is from outside Africa, in the Far East and also the US. The anti-poaching team face such a dangerous job every day as the poachers will do anything – even risk their lives – to get a rhino’s horn or elephant tusk. 

‘The death rate per capita for anti-poachers is higher than a soldier in combat in Iraq.’  

As William Mwakilema, Chief Park Warden of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania explains in the book this situation could lead to elephant and rhino becoming extinct within a few years if it goes unchecked. 

He said: ‘The war is extremely difficult to control by the use of current measures of guns, strong fines and long jail sentences as poaching involves quick gains and high return.’ 

The demand for ivory, also referred to as white-gold, is at its highest in China, where it is used in decorations and in traditional medicines, fuelling the multi-billion-pound illicit trade. 

Rhino horns are also highly sought after in Asia, where they are used in traditional medicines. 

Increasing human settlements restrict elephant habitat and movements causing them to leave protected areas or raid nearby farms

Increasing human settlements restrict elephant habitat and movements causing them to leave protected areas or raid nearby farms

An enormous adult elephant very carefully steps over a sleeping calf - their numbers are being dramatically reduced

An enormous adult elephant very carefully steps over a sleeping calf – their numbers are being dramatically reduced

The clash between expanding human encroachment and very territorial Hippos has led to its reputation as being the most dangerous large animal in Africa

The clash between expanding human encroachment and very territorial Hippos has led to its reputation as being the most dangerous large animal in Africa

Zebras stripe patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints in man, allowing scientists to identify individuals by comparing patterns, stripe widths and colours

Zebras stripe patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints in man, allowing scientists to identify individuals by comparing patterns, stripe widths and colours

This Leopard offers an idyllic but rapidly disappearing view of African Wildlife captured by photographer Gary Roberts

This Leopard offers an idyllic but rapidly disappearing view of African Wildlife captured by photographer Gary Roberts

Giraffes are social, peaceful animals that live in diffuse groups of members called a 'Tower' - they are also endangered in the wild 

Giraffes are social, peaceful animals that live in diffuse groups of members called a ‘Tower’ – they are also endangered in the wild 

Mr Roberts hopes his hard-hitting collection of poignant images, as well as the pictures showing the beasts in all their stunning glory will urge people to act. 

‘If we can support them in anyway we have a duty to do so’, he said. 

For more information about the project and the selection of pictures, please click here.   

 

The comments below have not been moderated.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

Who is this week’s top commenter?
Find out now