By Peta Thornycroft, Aislinn Laing
Poachers in Zimbabwe have killed more than 300 elephants and countless other safari animals by cyanide poisoning, The Telegraph has learned.
The full extent of the devastation wreaked in Hwange, the country's largest national park, has been revealed by legitimate hunters who discovered what conservationists say is the worst single massacre in southern Africa for 25 years.
Pictures taken by the hunters, which have been obtained exclusively by The Telegraph, reveal horrific scenes. Parts of the national park, whose more accessible areas are visited by thousands of tourists each year, can be seen from the air to be littered with the deflated corpses of elephants, often with their young calves dead beside them, as well as those of other animals.
There is now deep concern that the use of cyanide – first revealed in July, but on a scale that has only now emerged – represents a new and particularly damaging technique in the already soaring poaching trade.
Zimbabwean authorities said that 90 animals were killed this way. But the hunters who captured these photographs say they have conducted a wider aerial survey and counted the corpses of more than 300.
Poachers killed the elephants over the past three months by lacing waterholes and salt licks with cyanide. 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 which fed on their carcasses were also struck down, as were other animals such as kudu and buffalo that shared the same waterholes. More....