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Four elephants die of ‘cyanide poisoning’

Four elephants die of ‘cyanide poisoning’

dead elephant

Whinsley Masara, Chronicle Reporter
FOUR elephants have died due to suspected cyanide poisoning in Hwange National Park.

A container containing cyanide was found last week in the same area where elephant cyanide poisoning was first reported in 2013 leading to the death of more than 300 jumbos.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) acting spokesperson Mr Simukai Nyasha said an anti-poaching team has so far discovered decomposing carcasses of four elephants.

“A total of four elephants have succumbed to suspected cyanide poisoning in Hwange National Park. A container with suspected cyanide liquid was discovered on May 31 along an elephant track at Kennedy 1 in Hwange National Park.

“Tests were conducted with the assistance of the Environmental Management Agency and it was concluded that the container contained cyanide. We first discovered two elephant carcasses with missing ivory in the general area of Liasha in the southern border of the Park,” he said.

“This prompted Zimparks to engage a local hunting operator  — Lodzi Hunters — for assistance with a helicopter for aerial patrols and this led to the discovery of two more carcasses within the same locality.”

Mr Nyasha said Zimparks has already engaged the Environmental Management Agency to decontaminate all affected areas.

“The team is in the process of decontaminating all the affected areas. Meanwhile, Kennedy 1 in Hwange National Park and five sites outside the park have already been decontaminated,” he said.

Poaching is a big challenge in the country, with some poachers resorting to poisoning animals.  At least 300 elephants died due to cyanide poisoning in 2013.

Early this year, a suspected Zambian poacher was shot dead while another one was injured in Sibomvu area in the Pandamasule Forest in Matabeleland North Province.

In September last year, four jumbos were killed in Bulilima, adding to the nine that were reported in the Amandundumela area in the Gwayi Forest, Matabeleland North, in yet another case of cyanide poisoning.

The poachers escaped.

In March last year, three suspected poachers escaped after they were spotted by forestry guards in the same area. They left behind five kilogrammes of cyanide tablets suspected to have been intended for use in poisoning animals.

@winnie-masara

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