Another Zim elephant poisoned with cyanide - report

2016-01-17 11:44

Harare - Another elephant has been found dead of cyanide poisoning in north-western Zimbabwe, two months after around 60 elephants were killed in the area, it was reported on Sunday.

According to the state-controlled Sunday Mail, the decomposing body of the elephant was found last week in Sikumi Forest next to Hwange National Park, where poachers have poisoned dozens of elephants since September.

The elephant had been dead for around 10 days. 

Poachers had not had time to remove the elephants' tusks, according to the report.

An official from the Forestry Commission, Armstrong Tembo, told the newspaper: "On Tuesday last week our workers recovered the carcass of an elephant that was decomposing. The ivory was also recovered. 

"The cause of the death is a mixture of salt and cyanide," he added.

Poachers have commonly poisoned waterholes with cyanide, a fast-acting poison, or they have poisoned salt-licks near waterholes.

There was a hiatus in the poisonings in Hwange over November and December. 

One possible contributing factor may be the lack of rain, which has seen elephant numbers reduced in parts of the park as the animals move away to look for water and food.

The Bhejane Trust, a conservation group that operates in the vast national park, said in its latest report this week: "With very few elephants in the Sinamatella area still, we have not had to worry much about any repeat of the cyanide killings." 

Twenty-two elephants were poached in a single poisoning incident in Sinamatella, in the north of the park, in October. The authorities believe at least two gangs were involved in the attacks. At least seven people have been reportedly arrested so far, though it is far from certain that the ringleaders have been caught.

The official Herald newspaper reported last week that a man had been arrested at a logistics company in Bulawayo after he was found with more than a tonne of cyanide -- and no licence for it -- in his warehouse.

Bulawayo is on the main road between the Zimbabwean capital Harare and Hwange National Park.

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