Harare - Health fears were on the rise in Zimbabwe as poachers began poisoning water holes in many of the country's biggest game-parks, killing dozens of animals, reports said on Sunday.
Caroline Washaya-Mayo, a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Manaagement Authority, was quoted by the Sunday Mail newspaper as saying that waterholes have been contaminated with the unidentified poison at the Gonarezhou, Mana Pools, Zambezi, Charara and Matsudona national parks.
"This is the only time we have had cases of poaching involving chemicals," Washaya-Mayo said, adding that poachers are using different techniques which are silent and do not raise suspicion.
Nine elephants, five lions, two buffaloes and several vultures are among the animals known to have died after drinking the water.
Authorities are concerned that the health of nearby villages may be at risk if residents accidentally drink the contaminated water and urged game rangers patrolling the areas to carry their own water.
In July, a local conservation group accused Chinese miners of using poisoned bread to kill a herd of elephants in the Zambezi Valley. Poisoned cabbage leaves were reportedly used to kill rhinos in south-eastern Zimbabwe last year.
Authorities in once game-rich Zimbabwe have recently stepped up their fight against poachers, killing three suspected rhino poachers in the Chipangayi Safari area, south-east of the country, on Tuesday.