By Peter Cox
Nearly 100 elephants have been killed with cyanide over the last few months in western Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, leaving anti-poaching agencies worried about the broader implications of poachers turning to poison in order to collect ivory.
In September, ten poachers were arrested in what anti-poaching advocates say was the largest single killing of elephants in Zimbabwe's history. Since May, 90 elephants have been killed after feeding from salt licks that have been poisoned with a mixture of cyanide and lead.
Three of the poachers have already been convicted, receiving sentences of 15 to 16 years and major fines. The remaining seven are set to go to court this month. More arrests are possible.
Caroline Washaya-Moyo, the public relations manager for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, is shocked by this new form of poaching is shocking and is worried about its potentially wide-reaching consequences.
"We were used to them putting snares, used to them shooting the elephants, we're used to them using the traditional way of poaching. But this is new and it is indiscriminate…anything that then feeds on the elephant, dies," pointed out Washaya-Moyo.
Cyanide shuts down cellular respiration; the poison puts the body into a coma with seizures and cardiac arrest. Death occurs quickly after ingestion.
Along with elephants, one lion, two water buffaloes, one kudu, two painted dogs and several vultures have been killed by the poison. More....