Four elephants were found dead along Manzamnyama River which borders Bulilima District in Matabeleland South Province and Tsholotsho District in Matabeleland North in a suspected case of cyanide poisoning.
Bulilima Rural District Council chief executive officer, Mr John Brown Ncube said a professional hunter who was operating in the district found the carcasses at the river on Friday.
He said tests were being conducted to ascertain the cause of death.
Mr Ncube said the four elephants were at an advanced stage of decomposition and had already been dehorned.
“We received a report on Friday from a hunter who operates within the district saying he had found four elephants dead. A team comprising officials from Bulilima and Tsholotsho local authorities, Veterinary Department, Ema, Parks and Wildlife Authority and police officers visited the area on Saturday to access the situation.
“The four elephants had already been dehorned. Three of them were lying close to the river and the fourth was about a kilometre away. The river separates Bulilima and Tsholotsho hunting concessions. Preliminary investigations indicate that it could be cyanide poisoning but we are waiting for official communication,” he said.
Mr Ncube said officers from the Department of Veterinary Services collected some of the elephant intestines while the Environmental Management Authority officers collected water and soil samples for examination.
The elephants, he said were suspected to have been killed about four days earlier.
“These are the activities of poachers and it appears that they used a motor powered saw to remove the ivory. It also appears that they laced the water with cyanide and then waited upon the elephants to consume the poison.
“The district has in the past recorded cases of elephants that have died because of cyanide poison and it appears that these incidents have resurfaced which is a cause for concern,” he said.
The four Bulilima killings add to the nine that were recently reported in the Amandundumela area in the Gwai Forest, Matabeleland North, in yet another case of cyanide poisoning. The poachers escaped.
In March, three suspected poachers escaped after they were spotted by forestry guards in the same area. They left behind five kilogrammes of cyanide tablets suspected to have been intended for use in poisoning animals.
Elephant poisoning was first reported in 2013 when more than 300 jumbos died in the Hwange National Park.