Earth Watch Report – Hazmat – Animal Advocacy – Poaching
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|HAZMAT||Zimbabwe||Matabeleland North, [Hwange National Park]|
HAZMAT in Zimbabwe on Monday, 23 September, 2013 at 14:24 (02:24 PM) UTC.
|Zimbabwe’s government said Monday that a “poaching syndicate” has killed at least 81 elephants, unknown numbers of buffalos and kudus by poisoning in the country’s largest national park. Six suspects were arrested two weeks ago but the scale of the cyanide-poisoning has only gradually unfolded as more elephant carcasses were discovered in the sprawling Hwange National Park. Authorities on Monday warned “huge spiral effects” as primary predators like lions, vultures, and others that feed on the contaminated elephants carcasses would be poisoned as well. Police revealed that the syndicate, led by a South African businessman, mixed up a combination of cyanide, salt and water and poured the cocktail in about 35 salt licks at watering holes known to be frequented by elephants. At other watering holes the poachers would dig holes and place containers containing the deadly mixture into the holes. Zimbabwe’s newly appointed Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Savior Kasukuwere declared a “war” against poaching. “We declare zero tolerance to poaching. We must put a stop to this. We cannot continue with this non-sense,” state media quoted Kasukuwere as saying after he went to inspect the ecological impact of the poisoning — his second trip in a week. Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi, who accompanied Kasukuwere to Hwange, described the poisoning as case as “murder” of Zimbabwe’s our wildlife and pledged to take the fight to those international source markets. Hwange, spanning 14,651 square kilometers, is home to about 50, 000 African elephants. Over the years, elephant population in Africa has been rapidly declining due to rampant poaching. Zimbabwe is among a few countries, mostly in southern Africa, that still have a significant number of elephants. The Zimbabwean government allows ivory trade in the domestic market, but puts strong restrictions on exporting the ivory products. The country’s law provides maximum 11 years in prison for people convicted of poaching.|
More than 80 elephants have died as a result of cyanide poisoning at the Hwange National Park, in what is being described as serious crisis for the park.
Nine suspected members of a poaching syndicate have been arrested since the first of the elephant carcasses were discovered late last month. The carcasses were discovered after national parks authorities teamed up with police to track suspected poachers, after hearing gunfire in the park.
Investigations by the police resulted in the grisly discovery of the elephants, with their tusks removed. Further investigations led the police to nearby Mafu homestead, where six suspected members of the poaching gang were arrested and 17 elephant tusks were recovered.
According to authorities, the poaching syndicate laced salt licks with cyanide and placed the salt at main water sources where the Hwange elephants drink.
Since then, a large scale operation has been launched resulting in three more arrests and the discovery of even more elephants remains.
Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) said the situation is “very serious.” He told SW Radio Africa that greed and corruption was to blame for allowing poaching to reach such serious levels.
“The repercussions are just so big. All the carnivores in the park like your lions, your leopards, the birds, they will all have perished too from eating the elephant meat,” Rodrigues said.
He added: “The situation is just going to get worse and something needs to be done to stop the carnage.”