Last month, we reported that poachers were killing elephants using cyanide in Zimbabwe’s 5,660-square mile Hwange National Park, killing at least 41. Sadly, as terrible as that was, it wasn’t nearly the whole extent of the horror: Since then, legit hunters have brought new information about the carnage, providing evidence from wide aerial surveys showing that more than 300 elephants were poisoned by poachers.
Parts of the national park, whose more accessible areas are visited by thousands of tourists each year, can be seen from the air to be littered with the deflated corpses of elephants, often with their young calves dead beside them, as well as those of other animals. There is now deep concern that the use of cyanide “first revealed in July, but on a scale that has only now emerged” represents a new and particularly damaging technique in the already soaring poaching trade. (source)
Conservationists have called this the “worst single [animal] massacre in southern Africa for 25 years”.
Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
The poachers lace the waterholes where elephant go drink with cyanide, as well as salt licks that attract the animals during the dry season.
Cyanide being a poison, the elephants were not the only victims, directly or indirectly. The elephant carcasses of course became magnets for all kinds of animals…
After the elephants died, often collapsing just a few yards from the source, lions, hyenas and vultures which fed on their carcasses were also struck down, as were other animals such as kudu and buffalo that shared the same waterholes.
In 2011, at least 17,000 African elephants were killed for their tusks according to Cites, the international body that focuses on endangered species.