Poachers poison 5 elephants in Zim forest

Harare - Five elephants have been poisoned with cyanide in a protected forest area in western Zimbabwe, the first reports of poisonings in months, according to reports on Saturday.

The dead elephants were found by a patrol tracking poachers in the Amandundumela area of the Gwaai Forest.

"Forest protection personnel together with ZRP [police] officers were alerted to this incident and upon tracking the spoor, three elephant carcasses were discovered with the ivory already removed," Forestry Commission spokesperson Violet Makoto told the state-run Chronicle.

"The team also discovered two more elephant carcasses [on Friday]," she added.

Cyanide widely available on black market

In 2013 Zimbabwe experienced its first major cyanide poisoning incidents. More than 200 elephants were killed in and around Hwange National Park.

Last October, more than 60 elephants were reported killed in another spate of cyanide poisonings in Hwange and Kariba, in the north of the country.

Makoto told the Chronicle that four elephants were killed in February in the Gwaai Forest. In March forestry guards seized 5kgs of cyanide from three suspected poachers who managed to escape, she said.

Cyanide, used in gold mining, is reported to be widely available on Zimbabwe's black market.

Authorities say that some areas, including Hwange and Gonarezhou National Park in the south-east of the country have too many elephants.

But in other areas, including the Zambezi Valley in northern Zimbabwe, elephants have been hard-hit by poachers.

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