By Chris Magadza
Traditional poaching was by men on foot using rifles. The trade had a chain of players consisting of:
- Intelligence suppliers for quick access and location of target animals;
- Armed shooters with good tracking experience;
- Intermediaries who supplied the field men with arms and received the poached material on behalf of the traders; and
- Hiding place to stash the poached material (rhino horn or elephant tusks).
Gunfire could be detected, or if they had to spend time hiding until it was safe to move out to safety with their poached goods, they could always be surprised at their hideouts by wildlife protection authorities.
In due course, the poaching syndicate has developed more sophisticated methods. To start with, the market is highly organised, backed by people with considerable financial clout and possibly political connections or influence.
In the field, they are able to evade detection by using rapid access, quick kill of many animals in a short time and quickly exit the area probably by helicopter. An incident in Gonarezhou last year was probably one such operation.
The use of cyanide, coupled with the new stealth methods the poachers have developed, enables poaching at a massive scale. For a start, cyanide goes on killing for as long as there is sufficient concentration in the bait or drinking water.
Cyanide, like common salt, does not biodegrade.
Furthermore, cyanide, unlike the human shooter, is a non-selective killer. Thus, all animals that would drink from a poisoned water source would die, or similarly animals that visit a poisoned salt lick. More....