By Alex Bell
More elephant carcasses have been found in the Hwange National Park following the poisoning of water wells by poachers, bringing the number of dead elephants to 69.
Three more poaching suspects were arrested this weekend in an ongoing investigation by police officers and National Parks authorities, launched after 41 elephants carcasses were discovered in the park late last month. The latest arrests bring to nine the number of poachers arrested since the launch of the anti-poaching operation.
Another 28 elephant carcasses were also recovered this weekend. The elephants died after members of a suspected poaching syndicate laced salt with the toxic chemical cyanide and distributed the salt in a drinking pool used by elephants in Hwange.
Government officials have since vowed to crackdown on poaching, following a Ministerial delegation visit to Hwange over the weekend. The new Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Saviour Kasukuwere was flown to the national park along with Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi and Information Minister Jonathan Moyo to assess the situation.
“We will protect elephants alongside all our animals. This is a war we will win,” said Kasukuwere.
Johnny Rodrigues, the Chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said that current poaching penalties are “very lenient.” He told SW Radio Africa stricter anti-poaching laws are necessary.
“The biggest problem is in the judicial system. The police and national parks don’t work together and when poachers do get arrested they get a slap on the hand and then soon they are back out there doing the same thing. The penalty for what is happening is actually very lenient,” Rodrigues said.