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Poachers have killed five elephants and hacked off their tusks in Kenya, renewing fears that poaching will surge as a worldwide ban on ivory trading is eased.

The five adult males were killed in early September at Muge Ranch, a private reserve near Nanyuki, 90 miles north of Nairobi, the Kenya Wildlife Service said Thursday.

The U.N. wildlife convention eased a 7 1/2 -year-old worldwide ban on ivory trade June 19, voting to let three African nations make a one-time sale of 59 tons of stockpiled elephant tusks to Japan in 1999.

The decision -- opposed by Kenya -- was immediately condemned by animal-rights activists, who said it would spark renewed elephant slaughters by poachers. They argued that any trade would lead to poaching because of the difficulty in ensuring illegal ivory is not mixed in with legal shipments.

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