HARARE – Seven bodies of elephants suspected to have been killed by cyanide poisoning were found in Hwange National Park (Hwange), as the mammals continue to be decimated for their ivory by poachers.
Carcasses of the animals, Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) chairman Johnny Rodrigues said, were found in the Hwange’s Sinamatella area.
According to elephant conservation groups, at least 200 elephants have been killed in the north western national park by cyanide — a chemical compound widely used in Zimbabwe’s mining industry and is relatively easy to obtain.
Rodrigues blamed the authorities for not doing enough to bring poachers to book.
“The biggest problem is that government hasn’t done anything to the previous perpetrators and this purge is still going,” he said.
Rodrigues said he believed locals and insiders were aiding and abetting the killing of elephants and poaching of wildlife in the country’s national parks.
“The director general of national parks was sent on forced leave recently because after the officials carried out an investigation, they discovered that 228kgs of rhino horns and a couple of tonnes of ivory was missing from the central stores,” he said.
“The government and the national parks are not serious about what they are doing. Everybody is involved in the corruption,” Rodrigues said.
He claimed that Zimbabwe’s wildlife was not only in danger from poaching but also being routinely slaughtered to feed the country’s national parks staff.
“Zimbabwe is the only country in the world that routinely kills animals on a Thursday to feed the national parks staff,” said Rodrigues.
He also claimed that Zimbabwean authorities and the Chinese officials have been capturing animals for export to China.
“We are aware of eight lions, four giraffes, eight hyenas and 40 elephants that have been captured already and are waiting to be sent to Chimelong Safari Park in China,” he said.
“The Zimbabwean authorities are trying to fulfil their order of 130 elephants and 50 lions. It has been reported that the captors are using bull hooks to coax the elephants in and out of the containers so as to prepare them for their trip to China.”
Rodrigues, who has been involved in the fight to conserve Zimbabwe’s wildlife since the turn of the millennium, said the practice of capturing the elephants had left their family units severely disrupted and damaged, which in turn causes conflict between humans and the animals.
“Some of the captured animals have been beheaded so that they may be mounted and sold as trophies, especially animals with large horns,” said Rodrigues.
“The heads are being utilised by a local Chinese businesswoman and then sold as trophies. The monkeys are being skinned and apparently being fed to the capture team. We mentioned in the last report that the officials are in the process of capturing elephants under the age of six to be ‘relocated’ to Chisarira, near Binga which we found suspicious. We have since been told that they have increased the size of the capture pens so that they can hold more animals,” he said.
“It has also been brought to our attention that it is suspected that one of the male members of Cecil’s pride has been captured too and is ready for export to China,” Rodrigues claimed.
Efforts to get comment from Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s spokesperson, Caroline Washaya-Moyo, were unsuccessful as her phone went unanswered.