Johannesburg — South African authorities on Wednesday launched an investigation into wildlife poisoning believed to be committed by poachers.
This came after ranchers discovered an elephant carcass, 110 dead white back vultures, two male lions and two black back jackals killed by wildlife poisoning last week in the Kruger National Park (KNP), one of the largest game reserves in northeastern South Africa.
The elephant carcass was found with gun shots to its head, its tusks were removed and poison was laced on it. Scavengers in the vicinity of the elephant carcass were poisoned from feeding the exposed areas of the carcass, the KNP said.
"It seems poachers have resorted to wildlife poisoning in the National Parks and other protected areas in Southern Africa and we are devastated by these latest mortalities of our wildlife," said the Managing Executive of KNP, Glenn Phillips.
"Wildlife poisoning is not only a threat to our biodiversity assets, but a single incident can affect hundreds of species; thus cutting their life short and diminishing their ecological role," he said.
Last year, the KNP experienced a similar incident where one elephant and four African lions suffered the same fate; with 46 vultures and one sub adult bateleur all dying from poisoning.
Although poisoning has occurred at a low level in South Africa in recent history, it is a real problem in neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
"A joint operation with all relevant government security structures as well as our neighbouring counterparts; in particular those bordering the far northern part of the KNP where there is a spate of elephant poaching that requires tough regulatory measures to prevent wildlife poisoning and poaching," said Phillips.