In a sad story out of Africa, rangers from Zimbabwe’s Hwange national park discovered the carcasses of 26 elephants at two different locations, all killed by cyanide poisoning. This follows last week’s discovery of 14 dead elephants, also killed by the poison.
According to the Bhejane Trust and the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, rangers patrolling the park discovered the bodies on Tuesday. The Bhejane Trust participates in joint animal welfare monitoring along with the park’s agency.
Caroline Washaya-Moyo, a spokeswoman for the park, said 14 tusks were recovered from the dead elephants but the other tusks had not been found. She said rangers had found 10 of the elephants in Chakabvi and 16 others in the Lupande area.
Washaya-Moyo said no arrests have yet been made and that investigations were ongoing. Rangers recovered about two pounds of cyanide and have increased their patrols in the park. Cyanide is used in the mining industry of Zimbabwe and is relatively easy to obtain.
Trevor Lane, a founder of the Bhejane Trust and a leading wildlife conservation stated that, “The poachers were probably disturbed by rangers on patrol, which is why some of the tusks were recovered. Cyanide poisoning is becoming a huge problem here and we are struggling to contain it.”
Parks and wildlife authorities also noted that cyanide was recently used to kill three animals in Matusadona, and 11 in Hwange, in some cases the tusks were cut off.
Last week, officials reported that 14 elephants were poisoned by cyanide in three separate incidents.
In 2013, approximately 300 elephants died in Hwange park after poachers placed cyanide in the park’s salt pans.
On Monday, Oppah Muchinguri, the environment, water and climate minister, blamed the rise in in poaching on a United States ban on the sport hunting of Zimbabwean elephants.
She claimed that, “All this poaching is because of American policies. They are banning sport hunting. An elephant would cost $120,000 in sport hunting but a tourist pays only $10 to view the same elephant.” She further added that money from sport hunting is critical in conservation efforts.