Three zebras, a warthog and a cheetah as well as hundreds of birds have died following cyanide poisoning at a Nyamandlovu ranch. Poachers used cyanide to kill the animals last Wednesday at Dingwall Ranch owned by Thandi Bower.
Magodi Moyo, who has worked at the ranch for the past 22 years, said he discovered that the animals had been poisoned on Thursday morning during daily patrols.
“We’ve serious problems with poachers, but never have we experienced anything of this nature. We battle daily with villagers who come to hunt with dogs and those who trap animals with snares at the river where animals drink but none of this,” said Moyo.
“We started our patrol from the far end of the ranch at the river where we noticed tyre marks of two heavy trucks.”
Moyo said they followed the marks that led them to a waterhole where they found dead animals and others that were still battling for life.
“There were two bloody and muddy sites which showed that two big animals were taken and we suspect they were zebras. However, we are not able to say how many animals were taken but zebras are the ones which usually drink from that point. They may have taken a lot of other animals because poisoning wouldn’t cause immediate bleeding,” added Moyo.
He said a search around the ranch yielded a white bag and a plastic with white powder suspected to have been left by the poachers.
When reporters arrived at the scene, a dead warthog was at the waterhole.
Hundreds of birds were also dead at the scene.
Environmental Management Agency, ZimParks and the police visited the ranch yesterday as part of investigations.
Matabeleland North Provincial Environmental Manager Chipo Mpofu-Zuze said a lot of work needed to be done to avoid the death of more animals.
She said the poisoning amounts to serious cruelty to animals.
“A lot of hard work has to be done to neutralise the soil throughout the contaminated area which measures about 407 square metres,” she said.
“We will send some soil for testing at the laboratories. Then we need to destroy all the carcasses as soon as possible by burning them completely because burying will not work in this case as some animals may feed from the poisoned ones.”
Earlier this week, 14 elephants were poisoned by cyanide at Matusadona National Park in Kariba and at Hwange National Park. The incidents come two years after poachers killed more than 300 elephants, also through cyanide poisoning in Hwange.