British soldier killed by an elephant while on counter-poaching operations in Malawi

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Mathew Talbot, of The 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, who has died while on counter poaching operations in Malawi, the Ministry of Defence has announced. It is understood Guardsman Talbot was killed by an elephant whilst on patrol. (PA)
Mathew Talbot, of The 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, who has died while on counter poaching operations in Malawi, the Ministry of Defence has announced. It is understood Guardsman Talbot was killed by an elephant whilst on patrol. (PA)

A British soldier has been killed by an elephant while on counter-poaching operations in Africa.

Mathew Talbot, of The 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, died while on counter poaching operations in Malawi, the Ministry of Defence has announced on Tuesday.

He was on his first operational deployment when he died during counter poaching operations in Malawi on May 5.

His commanding officer, Lt Col Ed Launders, said Guardsman Talbot "was a determined and big-hearted Coldstreamer who devoted his life to serving his country" and "tragically died doing great good".

MALAWI - 2016/05/28: An African elephant bull (Loxodonta africana) on the shore of the Shire River in Liwonde National Park, Malawi. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
An African elephant bull (Loxodonta africana) on the shore of the Shire River in Liwonde National Park, Malawi. Stock image. (Getty)

Company Commander Major Richard Wright added that in the short time he knew Guardsman Talbot "he never failed to make me smile".

He said: "A true Coldstreamer, fit, energetic and full of selfless commitment, Guardsman Talbot bravely lost his life whilst ensuring that endangered species will be around for future generations to learn from and enjoy."

He leaves behind his father Steven, his mother Michelle and sisters Aimee and Isabel, and Olivia his girlfriend, Mr Wright added.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: "I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Guardsman Mathew Talbot, who died while carrying out vital counter-poaching work in Malawi.

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"This tragic incident is a reminder of the danger our military faces as they protect some of the world's most endangered species from those who seek to profit from the criminal slaughter of wildlife.

"Throughout his career with the Coldstream Guards, Guardsman Talbot served with great courage and professionalism, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones at this terrible time."

Lt Hugo Cazalet, the platoon commander, said: "Guardsman Talbot was an exceptional and unique personality, possessed of a quick and dry wit.

"He was a proud 'Brummie' with an epic work ethic, he always worked hard for his mates and put the needs of the team before his own.

"He was a constant source of morale, even in the direst situations and his infectious humour ensured that his team were constantly smiling too."

Defence minister Tobias Ellwood said the "untimely death" showed that soldiers face dangers in many aspects of the job they do.

He told Forces News: "It shows you that this may not have been a battlefield but it shows you that there's dangers inherent right across what our armed forces do. It's truly sad to learn of his untimely death and our thoughts and prayers are very much with his friends and family at this moment."

He said: "He was doing an important job and I know that's something that he loved as well."

Operation Corded, the name given to the Army's counter-poaching deployment in Malawi, assists in the training of rangers in a bid to help them crack down on the illegal wildlife trade.

Park rangers are taught skills such as tracking, partnered patrolling, communications, surveillance, and intelligence-sharing - with the first deployment taking place in August 2017.

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