Zimbabwean ivory poachers have killed more than 80 elephants by poisoning water holes with cyanide, endangering one of the world’s biggest herds, a minister said on Wednesday.
Saviour Kasukuwere, the country’s environment minister, said the elephants had died in the last few weeks in Hwange national park, the nation’s largest, while security forces were preoccupied with the general election on 31 July.
Police and rangers recovered 19 tusks, cyanide and wire snares after a sweep through villages close to the park, which lies just south of Victoria Falls.
“We are declaring war on the poachers,” he said. “We are responding with all our might because our wildlife, including the elephants they are killing, are part of the natural resources and wealth that we want to benefit the people of Zimbabwe.”
Zimbabwe is home to some of Africa’s largest herds, with half of the estimated 80,000 elephants thought to be in Hwange.
Kasukuwere, who was appointed to the environment ministry a week ago, said he would push for stiff penalties for convicted poachers, who routinely get less than the nine-jail term imposed for cattle rustling.
Zimbabwe is working to revive its tourism industry, including its wildlife sector, which has suffered years of decline blamed by some on the economic policies of the long-serving president, Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party, in power since the former Rhodesia gained independence from Britain in 1980, was re-elected in an election in July that was rejected by his main rivals, who said it was rigged.
This article originated from Reuters in Harare and published by the Guardian.
Zimbabwean court officials say three poachers convicted of the cyanide poisoning of water holes that killed 81 elephants in a northwestern nature park to collect ivory have been sentenced to up to 16 years in jail.
Officials in the court in Hwange, 750 kilometers (470 miles) west of Harare, said Thursday the men were found guilty under anti-poaching laws and for illegal possession of 17 elephant tusks.
Another five suspects were ordered to be held in custody until their Oct. 4 trial.
Wildlife authorities say 81 elephant carcasses were found in the remote Hwange National Park in the past month. Officials said it was not clear where the other tusks were hidden or whether they had already been smuggled out of Zimbabwe to lucrative illegal ivory markets in Asia.
This article was published on Yenghana.com/