Zimbabwe: Elephants, Rhinos Killed By Cyanide


By Shame Makoshori, Financial Gazette

Date Published
AT least six elephants and two black rhinos were killed by the poisonous industrial chemical, cyanide, between January and March 10, 2015, an official report has indicated.
The report by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) raises fears of the continued decimation of the country’s animals by poachers in Zimbabwe, where over 300 jumbos were killed through poisoning of water sources in 2013 alone.
Thousands of small game and birds were also killed after they fed on the carcasses of the dead elephants.
This brings to about 11 the number of elephants killed by cyanide in the country’s largest national park since last year, according to the EMA report, which indicated that five jumbos were killed by poachers though cyanide poisoning in 2014.
However, this is the number of animals that were recorded by authorities in the vast widlife park.
More could have died but were not recorded.
At least one warthog was killed by cyanide in the Chipangayi Conservancy during the period January to March 10, 2015, according to a report by Mutsa Chasi, the director at EMA.
Reports of the sustained killing of game, including the highly endangered rhinos, which are facing extinction in this part of the world, came as a senior tourism executive warned in February that the senseless acts that have attracted extensive global attention, had affected the flow of tourists into Hwange National Park, one of Africa’s largest wildlife conservancies.
It appears government, which has failed to provide enough protection to the country’s wildlife, has decided to pursue a quiet strategy in the latest killings after being attacked by the media and animal rights groups for its incompetence during the 2013 catastrophe, which took place as the world gathered in Victoria Falls for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly.
The event was co-hosted by Victoria Falls and the city of Livingstone in Zambia.
Chasi told delegates at a breakfast meeting which looked at the role of EMA in Harare recently that decontaminating the areas where animals were poisoned was expensive.
She said the Hwange Cyanide poisoning alone gobbled US$ 300 000, as the agency battled to prevent an ecological disaster.
“In 2014, a total of five similar case occurred in Dete, Mana Pools, Victoria Falls and Ngamo and Fuller Gazetted Forest in Hwange District,” said Chasi.
“In 2015 two major cases have already been recorded, one in Chipangayi Conservancy where two black rhinoceros and one Warthog died and Hwange where six elephants died,” she added.
Chasi was explaining to delegates how fees charged by EMA were being deployed to protect and improve environmental awareness.
In February, African Sun Limited chief executive officer, Shingi Munyeza, said the poisoning of large numbers of elephants in Hwange National Park had affected tourist arrivals into the wildlife estate.
He said Hwange Safari Lodge, which lies at the heart of the national park, was among destinations significantly affected by the mindless slaughters, noting, however, that it remained one of the region’s best resorts.
Munyeza said tourists who are sensitive to animal rights had started skirting Hwange National Park.
The death of the jumbos exposed the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s incapacity to administer the vast conservancy, a key source of foreign currency for the country.
High profile delegations trooped into the national park after the slaughters, leading to the arrest and prosecution of villagers living close to the park.
But authorities are still battling to arrest the wanton killing of wildlife, which is now threatening many types of game with extinction.
“Hwange has been affected by access issues into that market,” Munyeza told analysts at a briefing for the full-year to September 30, 2014 in Harare.
“One of the issues we had was that a whole lot of elephants were killed in Hwange,” said Munyeza, whose group controls over 50 percent of the country’s rooms in hotels.
“That sort of affected travellers who are sensitive to animals,” he said.
Measures have recently been put in place to improve the protection of game in conservancies across the country, with donors chipping in with funding to help the country put in place personnel to deal with the crisis.