SW Radio Africa (London)

23 September 2013

Zimbabwe: Elephant Death Tolls Climbs to 81 After Cyanide Poisoning

Photo: Kevin Walsh
Elephants in the evening, Hwange, Zimbabwe.

More than 80 elephants have died as a result of cyanide poisoning at the Hwange National Park, in what is being described as a serious crisis for the park.

Nine suspected members of a poaching syndicate have been arrested since the first of the elephant carcasses were discovered late last month. The carcasses were discovered after national parks authorities teamed up with police to track suspected poachers, after hearing gunfire in the park.

Investigations by the police resulted in the grisly discovery of the elephants, with their tusks removed. Further investigations led the police to nearby Mafu homestead, where six suspected members of the poaching gang were arrested and 17 elephant tusks were recovered.

According to authorities, the poaching syndicate laced salt licks with cyanide and placed the salt at main water sources where the Hwange elephants drink.

Since then, a large scale operation has been launched resulting in three more arrests and the discovery of even more elephants remains.

Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) said the situation is "very serious." He told SW Radio Africa that greed and corruption was to blame for allowing poaching to reach such serious levels.

"The repercussions are just so big. All the carnivores in the park like your lions, your leopards, the birds, they will all have perished too from eating the elephant meat," Rodrigues said.

He added: "The situation is just going to get worse and something needs to be done to stop the carnage."

Meanwhile, a high level government delegation made another journey to Hwange this weekend, the second visit in a week, to evaluate the situation. The new Minister of Environment Savior Kasukuwere once again declared a "war" against poaching.

"We declare zero tolerance to poaching. We must put a stop to this. We cannot continue with this non-sense," state media quoted Kasukuwere as saying.

Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi, who accompanied Kasukuwere to Hwange, described the poisoning as case as "murder" of Zimbabwe's wildlife and pledged to take the fight an international level.

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InFocus

Zimbabwe's San Blamed for Elephants Poisoning

Elephants in the evening, Hwange, Zimbabwe.

The death toll of poisoned elephants now stands at over 100 with authorities blaming the san people for poaching. Read more »