A group of Zimbabwean government representatives visited Hwange National Park on Saturday when numerous reports of cyanide poisoning emerged. Today their fears were confirmed, as they verified that the deaths of the elephants, which are fast facing extinction by ivory poachers, were indeed caused by ingesting cyanide which had been put in places in the park where the elephants graze. Several other animals were also killed by the cyanide, although the total number is not yet known.
Poachers have long targeted the elephants for their tusks, which are highly prized in the illegal ivory trade. Sources suggest as many as 25,000 elephants were poached last year, which raises serious concerns for the species’ survival. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the species could become extinct in as little as 12 years if poaching continues at current rates.
In the aftermath of the cyanide poisonings, nine people have been arrested in connection with the incident, charged with the deliberate placing of cyanide nearby the elephants’ watering holes in the game park.
This is not the first case of poisoning the park has experienced – just two years ago, nine elephants, five lions and two buffalo died from ingesting cyanide in the Hwange National Park. However the scale of this week’s attack is unprecedented.
Workers at the park have long expressed the need for increased security in the park. The number of patrol rangers currently stands at 50, charged with the task of protecting 120,000 elephants and thousands of other animals in the 5,660 square mile park. Wildlife authorities say that ten times the amount of rangers are needed.
Sources include BBC News, Metro News
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