By Ben Levitas
Recently in Zimbabwe while the country was preoccupied with its general elections, the press almost completely ignored a catastrophic chemical poisoning of animals. Ivory poachers killed more than 80 elephants by poisoning water holes with cyanide. The elephants had constituted one of the world’s biggest herds, and were slaughtered in Zimbabwe’s largest park, the Hwange National Park, which is located just south of the Victoria Falls.
Because security forces were focussed on maintaining calm during and after the elections, police and rangers were slow to react and only succeeded in recovering 19 tusks, cyanide and wire snares after a sweep through villages close to the park.
“We are declaring war on the poachers,” Saviour Kasukuwere, the country’s environment minister, said. “We are responding with all our might because our wildlife, including the elephants they are killing, is part of the natural resources and wealth that we want to benefit the people of Zimbabwe.”
The first time water holes were poisoned in Zimbabwe was in June 2013, when nine elephants had their tusks removed and at least 21 other animal carcasses were discovered. The sheer lunacy of chemical poisoning is the unintended consequences. All animals and birds of prey that feast and ingest the meat of the poisoned animals are themselves poisoned and die. This chain reaction is aggravated because the elephant corpses are left to rot in the veld once the tusks are removed, as are the carcasses of the other animals. As it is often customary for local communities to cook and eat the meat of these poached animals, they too stand the risk of being poisoned. Drinking water from these water-holes would kill humans as well.
In the first case of chemical poisoning, the poison was named as “two-step”. “Sometimes [it is\ called ‘two step,’ meaning the animal — once it consumes water with the poison in it — takes two steps, then it dies, very potent, and that would mean the water in which it has been placed is permanently poisoned. It’s very likely the mud itself is contaminated,” said Peter Henning, who is involved with wildlife management in south-eastern Zimbabwe, according to the Voice of America. More....