By Caiphas Chimhete
At least 500 elephants have been killed by poachers in the past five months at Hwange National Park and surrounding areas in a scandal that is said to involve senior government officials now battling to cover their tracks, investigations by The Standard have revealed.
Sources said the senior government officials, including cabinet ministers, are now threatening villagers, whom they sent to kill elephants on their behalf, so they don't reveal their names.
Some villagers are said to have been offered money to buy their silence.
"There are five ministers [names supplied\ implicated in this saga, but it's difficult to nail them down because they have used threats and money to cover their tracks," said.
one source [sic\. "Some of them are said to have actually supplied cyanide to runners who in turn gave it to villagers to poison water sources."
Another source said there are "tigers and flies" in the elephant-cyanide death scandal, with the net targeting the flies, who are the villagers that were used by powerful politicians to poison the elephants on their behalf.
"The scale of the killings does point to a well-organised syndicate that cannot involve villagers alone," said the source. "It involves villagers, law enforcement agents and senior politicians but when such things break out, you don't hear about the big fish."
Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) chairman, Johnny Rodrigues also said the extent of the elephant-poisoning scandal involved a sophisticated network of poachers that included top government officials and law enforcement agents.
"There are big fish involved," he said. More....