Gabon troops kill poacher, arrest 34 others near elephant park

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Gabonese soldiers killed a poacher and arrested 34 other illegal hunters near a national park which is home to endangered forest elephants, the government said on Tuesday.

The troops pursued the men close to the northern border with Cameroon on November 10 and 11 and shot dead one of them in a gun battle, according to the presidency statement.

The soldiers found the carcass of an elephant and a panther at the camp used by the poachers, who had also been mining for gold, it added.

The heavily wooded central African country is battling to save its forest elephants thought to account for around half of the world's remaining population of 100,000.

An estimated 11,000 of the elephants - prized by ivory dealers for their hard, straight tusks - have been killed in the Minkebe park since 2004, the government said in February.

Other countries are also stepping up efforts to curb the multi-billion-dollar trade in illegal wildlife, much of which originates in Africa and is partly fuelled by growing demand from Asia.

In July, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order to fight trafficking. Kenya and the Philippines have also destroyed stockpiles of contraband ivory.

(Reporting by Jean Rovys Debany; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Andrew Heavens)