By Temba Dube, Nqobile Tshili
Police in Matabeleland North have smashed a six- man poaching syndicate with four of its members based in Bulawayo that allegedly poisoned and killed 41 elephants at Hwange National Park.A total of 17 tusks valued at about $120 000 were recovered. The gang would allegedly target pools frequented by elephants at the national park and use salt laced with cyanide to kill jumbos.
National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrest of brothers Sipho Mafu (53) and Misheck Mafu (46) of Thula Line in Tsholotsho, Alexander Ngwenya (42) of 7654/15 Tshabalala, Farai Chitsa (34) of A6297 Old Pumula, Nqobizitha Tshuma (25) of 14 Taylor Avenue in North End and Tinashe Senwayo (22) of 2 Hofmeyer Square also in North End.
In an interview yesterday, the officer-in-charge of Tsholotsho Police Station, Chief Inspector Muyambirwa Muzzah, said the parks game rangers patrolling near Pelandaba area in Tsholotsho which borders the national park, heard gunshots on 24 August and made a report to the police.
“They went with the police to investigate and found two elephants that had been killed and dehorned. On further investigation, inside the game park, they found rotting carcasses of dehorned elephants. There were tracks, made by three people near the animals and they followed those to the Mafu homestead,” said Chief Insp Muzzah.
He said the elder Mafu led the police to the hidden cache of 17 tusks and the police laid a trap for the rest of the gang members.
“The Mafus called Chitsa on his cellphone, which was put on loudspeaker and told him to come for the stuff as it was ready. Chitsa came to the game park with the rest of the suspects in Senwayo’s kombi and they were arrested,” said Chief Insp Muzzah. More....