3 Zim elephants poisoned with cyanide in resort town

2015-10-02 14:42
MAPP, via Facebook

MAPP, via Facebook

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Harare - Three elephants found dead in northern Zimbabwe are now known to have been poisoned by cyanide-laced oranges, an anti-poaching group has said.

University of Zimbabwe officials carried out tests on samples of the elephants reportedly found dead in the last fortnight in Kariba about 360km from capital Harare.

A resident of Kariba's Nyamhunga township, where human-wildlife conflict is a serious problem, was found in possession of a pack of cyanide, the Matusadona Anti Poaching Project (MAPP) said on Thursday.

Elephants often find oranges irresistible. There were fears other elephants in the area had been poisoned in the same method.

News of the use of cyanide to kill the elephants evokes memories of the poisonings of up to 200 elephants in Hwange National Park in 2013. Poachers put cyanide on salt licks next to watering holes.

Human life

A Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) spokesperson said they were investigating. 

"That there was a packet of cyanide found in Nyamhunga is an issue that is still being investigated," Caroline Washaya-Moyo told Friday's edition of the private News Day paper. 

"ZimParks wants to strongly appeal to the public to desist from keeping or handling hazardous substances, as they not only risk killing wildlife, but human life," she said. 

Pictures of the dead elephants in Kariba, posted by MAPP on its Facebook page, showed they still had their tusks, so they may not necessarily have been killed for ivory. 

"That individual found in possession of cyanide has got to know who he sold it to or where it came from. This is cruelty at its worst," wrote one man.

Funds and information

Another woman posted: "How is it that cyanide seems to be so readily available? Illegal gold mining? Cruelty on a massive scale."

Conflict between elephants and humans who live in close proximity in Kariba can be fatal on both sides. 

The Kariba Animal Welfare Trust reported this week an elephant had had to be put down in Nyamhunga after it fell and broke its leg when running away from a firecracker.

MAPP is appealing for funds and information to catch those who poisoned the animals. Elephant populations south of Lake Kariba have dropped 75% in the past 14 years through poaching, according to a recent survey.

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