Villagers from Chief Siphoso's area in Tsholotsho District have confessed to making a living out of poisoning elephants with cyanide and yesterday resolved to give up the practice and work with authorities in conserving wildlife.The villagers told a seven-member ministerial delegation led by Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere at Pumula Village under Chief Siphoso that the breaking down of the Campfire programme, council and parks services led to some of them resorting to poaching.
Pumula Village is about 87km from Tsholotsho Centre and is the area where cyanide poisoning of elephants was rife. Villagers asked the delegation, comprising Cabinet Ministers Professor Jonathan Moyo (Information, Media and Broadcasting Services), Cde Kembo Mohadi (Home Affairs), Dr Sydney Sekeramayi (Defence), Dr Ignatius Chombo (Local Government) and Engineer Walter Mzembi (Tourism), for a month-long amnesty during which they pledged to introspect and convince those among them that still had cyanide to hand it over to the authorities.
At least 95 elephants have died after consuming salt laced with cyanide. Environmentalists have warned that the poison could go through the food chain, killing animals that fed on the elephant carcasses and even humans.
Villagers are reportedly being exploited by syndicates who pay them as little as US$500 to kill elephants, with the syndicates selling a pair of tusks for as much as US$17 000.
Contributing to the discussion, a villager, Mr John Vumile Dube, pleaded with the Government to give villagers who still had cyanide at their homesteads, up to the end of the month to hand it over to the authorities.
"We have been working with Chief Siphoso and we have already convinced some villagers to hand over cyanide. We are pleading with the police to give us time and stop arresting villagers, at least until the end of the month. More....