Poachers in Zimbabwe have killed more than 300 elephants and countless other safari animals by cyanide poisoning. The full extent of the carnage in Hwange, the country's largest national park, has been revealed by legitimate hunters who discovered what conservationists said was the worst single massacre in southern Africa for 25 years. Pictures obtained exclusively by The Sunday Telegraph show horrific scenes.
Parts of the national park, which is visited by thousands of tourists each year, can be seen from the air to be littered with the corpses of elephants, often with their calves dead beside them, as well as those of other animals. There is deep concern that the use of cyanide represents a new and devastating technique in the rapidly growing poaching trade. Zimbabwean authorities said that 90 animals have been killed this way.
But the hunters who captured these photographs said they counted the corpses of more than 300. Poachers killed the elephants over the past three months by planting buckets of water laced with cyanide in the sand. Animals are drawn to them during the dry season in the already arid and remote south-eastern section of the 5,660-square mile park. After the elephants died, often collapsing just a few yards from the source, lions, hyenas and vultures that fed on their carcasses were also struck down, as were other animals such as kudu and buffalo that shared the same water.
Zimbabwe's authorities claim that the cyanide has been planted by villagers who sell the elephants' tusks for around pounds 300 each to cross-border traders. They can be resold in South Africa for up to pounds 10,000 a pair, according to court papers relating to one recent incident, sometimes re-emerging as carved artefacts such as bangles in Cape Town's craft markets.
Zimbabwe has one of Africa's biggest elephant populations, since herds in neighbouring regions have been severely reduced by poaching. More....