TEN elephants are reported to have died from fresh cyanide poisoning at Hwange National Park amid revelations that more wild animals could have died after consuming carcasses or through drinking water from ponds laced with the deadly chemical by poachers.
The recent incident which is said to have occurred about five kilometres south west of Hwange National Park’s Main Camp, poses a threat to the country’s wildlife conservation efforts and the tourism sector. In 2013, the country lost more than 100 elephants and a substantial number of other wild animals due to rampant cyanide poaching activities mainly concentrated at the Hwange National Park.
Zimbabwe is home to one of Africa’s largest surviving elephant populations after herds in neighbouring regions of East and Central Africa were decimated by poaching. A source privy to the on-goings at the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said rangers came across six elephant carcasses and three days later the team stumbled upon another four decomposed remains of jumbos about two kilometres from the first scene.
“ZPWMA rangers came across six elephants that died from cyanide poisoning at Hwange last week and a number of vultures also died from eating the carcasses of these elephants. Three days later the team came across another four carcasses and an array of dead animals at the scene,” said the source.
Zimparks senior warden Trumber Jura who is based at the Main Camp could not be drawn to comment on the incident, referring all questions to the authority’s public relations manager, Ms Caroline Washaya-Moyo, who was not reachable.
Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri could not be reached for comment.
Matabeleland North Environmental Management Agency provincial manager, Mrs Chipo Mpofu-Zuze confirmed the death of elephants but could not be drawn to disclose the numbers involved.