Ten more elephants poisoned by poachers in Zimbabwe

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Ten elephants, including a mother and her young calf, have been found poisoned in and around ’s premier game reserve, . Six of the animals died in the south of the park last week; some had their tusks hacked off. The others were found outside the northern sector of the park in state forestry land.

Park rangers responded quickly. A bucket of was found near the gruesome scene in the north and three arrests were made over the weekend. One of those arrested was found in possession of ivory.

The first known case of in Zimbabwe was a single massacre of over 100 elephants in Hwange national park in 2013. Since then it has become a common means of – not only in Hwange but throughout the country’s protected areas, including the Zambezi valley and Gonarezhou national park.

Early victim: one of the more than 100 elephants poisoned in Hwange national park in September 2013. Photograph: AP

It’s not just elephants that are dying. Predators and scavengers such lions, hyenas, jackals and vultures endure a slow and agonising death after eating poisoned flesh, while other animals such as antelope and zebra have been killed by drinking from contaminated buckets, waterholes and salt licks.

The use a dilute sodium cyanide solution and, in some cases, paraquat, a powerful agricultural herbicide that is extremely toxic to humans as well as other animals. Roxy Danckwerts, founder of Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery, ended up with kidney and lung failure last year after handling two elephant calves that had been poisoned with paraquat in Hwange. She still has impaired breathing. The two calves, nicknamed Phoenix and Lucy, eventually died.

Both cyanide and paraquat are readily available in Zimbabwe. Paraquat, although banned in the EU, is used by farmers in Zimbabwe to kill weeds and grasses, while the cyanide-based solution is common with Zimbabwe’s hundreds of thousands of informal miners. Poachers like such poisons because they enable them to kill large mammals silently, without the rifle shots that would alert rangers to their whereabouts.

The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has responded to the problem with force. Trevor Lane, co-founder of the Bhejane Trust, a non-profit organisation that monitors poaching activities in the northern sector of Hwange, says rangers have been given a clear shoot-to-kill policy from the government for any poachers they find within a national park. “Poachers lucky to be captured alive,” he adds, “are immediately given a minimum jail sentence of nine years if they are found with ivory or poison.”

The government had hoped that this approach would deter poachers but the value of ivory and the desperation of many rural Zimbabweans seem to outweigh the risks. Lane told Independent Online that he expects even more elephant poisonings “because people are so poor in this bad economic situation”. A poacher would be able sell a single tusk for around £250, a small fortune for any farmer.

Yet it’s not just impoverished villagers that are involved in the poisonings. The global lucrativeness of the illegal is well documented, and Zimbabwe is no different. Mining directors, top police officers and even disgruntled rangers have all been implicated in elephant poisoning.

Most of the poisoned elephant carcasses in Hwange were discovered by pilots of light aircraft conducting periodic game counts. Colin Gillies, vice-chair of the Matabeleland branch of Wildlife & Environment Zimbabwe, an organisation that conducts annual elephant counts in Hwange, says the remote south and north-eastern areas are notoriously difficult for rangers to patrol effectively. “The few crude vehicle tracks there,” he says, “are difficult to negotiate at the best of times but they become completely inaccessible during the wet season.”

This article was first published by The Guardian on 20 Jun 2017.


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Suman Anand

It is very sad and distressing to hear and read about the poisoning of so many elephants in zimbabwe ??? this kind of cruelty is so sad and uncalled for .//?

Anne Grice
Anne Grice

Zimbabwe couldn’t care one iota about preserving the future assets of its country and future generations. Its all about today for them and short term economic gains! Unfortunately equally disgust and wealth have found Ivory to be valuable assets and have no conscience about animals. There is NO Universal responsibility or interest to protect Zimbabwe’s and other wild life! Agencies and govt need to stop their deception and be honest about the dismal decimation of wild life globally!

Nigel Hinkes

Evil bastards !!

Blaženka Križan

So horrible, so sickening,…Dear God, please help animals!!!!!!!!!! Heartless, shameless men must be very sick doing this to animals, can they sleep well?!? Do they have have kids, are they reading stories to them about nice animals…are their hands stained with blood, regreting or not, are they normal human beings or evil, insane and satanic monsters?!?

Janet Kenedy

Very well stated.

Michele Jankelow

Devastating savagery!

Kathy Carlin

Hang these bastards

Carol Robinson

Bastards xx

Mary Miller

I hope they eat the meat and die all of them ………


I hope they find the evil people who did this and destroy them and their families! Hit them where it hurts – this has to stop – shame on the government for allowing this to happen over and over – Are they all on the take? These poachers need to be stopped – killed would be better for the evil idiots who have no conscience!

Tracy Whitcomb


Karen Jeffery

Heart wrenching that humankind can be so cruel!

Ruedi Plattner

very sad !

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

poachers should be poached into extinction

goldi muencz
goldi muencz

I hope for heavy carma about all animalkillers