Saturday, 28 September 2013

Hwange elephant poisoning update - Death toll now 81 elephants

Largest elephant poisoning on record
September 2013. Since the original discovery of 41 elephant carcasses in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park last week, a further 40 carcasses have now been discovered in what is believed to be the worst mass poisoning of elephants on record. Zimbabwe's Minister for Tourism, Walter Mzembi, visited the site of the massacre in Hwange National Park and announced that the death toll had now reached 81 elephants, and a large amount of smaller game, and that it was still possible that more would be found.

Zimbabwe Government officials have (again) vowed to crackdown on poaching.

It is highly likely that more wildlife, especially scavengers, will have eaten some of the carcasses will have died in addition to the elephants over a much more wisdespread area, and the full extent of the damage may never be known.

More arrests
Five Zimbabwean nationals were originally arrested in connection with the use of cyanide in Hwange National Park, and reports now indicate three more people have been arrested. Ivory, cyanide and a leopard skin were all recovered from the alleged poachers.

Zimbabwe poachers jailed 15 years for elephant poisoning

Harare (AFP) - A Zimbabwe court on Wednesday sentenced three poachers to at least 15 years in prison each for poisoning and killing 81 elephants, state radio reported.

A provincial magistrate sentenced 25-year-old Diyane Tshuma to 16 years in prison for poisoning elephants with cyanide at in Hwange National Park, in the west of Zimbabwe, Spot FM reported.

His co-accused Robert Maphosa, 42, and Thabani Zondo, 24, were each sentenced to 15 years.

"The parks and wildlife management authority has hailed the sentences saying they will be a deterrent to would-be poachers," Spot FM reported.

Tshuma was ordered to pay $600,000 (440,000 euro) to the Zimbabwe Wildlife and Parks Authority for killing the animals, while Zondo must pay $200,000 by the end of the year.

Elephant's tusks are highly sought after for Asia's ivory trade.

The three were among nine people arrested on suspicion of poisoning watering holes in the game park.

However, Jerry Gotora, chairman of the Zimbabwe parks department board of directors on Tuesday said the poison had been "put at places where elephants graze, not in water".

Two years ago nine elephants, five lions and two buffalo died from cyanide poisoning in Hwange National Park.

Just 50 rangers patrol the 14,650-square kilometre (5,660-square mile) park, and wildlife authorities say 10 times that number are needed.

There are more than 120,000 elephants living in Zimbabwe's national parks.

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