Poachers poison 7 elephants

HARARE - Zimbabwean rangers have found the bodies of seven elephants that were poisoned with cyanide in the country’s Hwange National Park.

Rangers found the carcasses of the elephants in Hwange park’s Sikumi Forestry area in Dete, spokeswoman for the Forestry Commission Violet Makoto said yesterday.

The grim discovery significantly raises the number of elephants poisoned by poachers in this southern African country.

The Forestry Commission said it cannot rule out that they could be more elephants lying dead unnoticed in areas near the main camp section of Hwange National Park.

“We are also worried about this new discovery of carcasses given that they are from last year,” Makoto said.

“We thought all the poison sites had been discovered and cleaned.

“The area in question though is within a Forestry Commission estate yes, but it’s on leased land which is under patrol by the lessee.

“We are also investigating why the operators at Ivory Lodge failed to discover the elephants.”

Speaking to an online publication, Sharon Pincott, an Australian wildlife conservationist, was not convinced that Zimbabwean authorities were doing enough to protect the elephant population.

Pincott spent a decade in Zimbabwe working among the clan of elephants known as The Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe on land bordering the main camp section of Hwange National Park.

“Firstly, you need to think about just how many more dead elephants may be out there, unseen. As I’ve been saying for years and years, all of the key presidential elephant land areas warrant official protection and regular anti-poaching patrols,” Pincott said.

“All elephants or animals fall under the ZimParks banner, however, the key presidential elephant areas in Hwange are outside their daily focus.

“It makes sense that the Forestry Commission should take over control of the entire key presidential elephant area — so that there are no private ‘owners’ — this is those individuals who grabbed land under the country’s controversial land reform programme ...”

She added: “That way, proper patrols can be expanded as necessary and sensibly coordinated and overseen, so that no parts of these key areas are ever left unpatrolled for long periods.

“And none are left in the hands of private individuals, who get away with doing as they please, as was allowed to happen in 2013 and is still being allowed to continue today.”

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