News / Africa

Elephants Killed by Cyanide Reveal Alarming Innovation in Poaching Tactics

The carcass of an elephant which was killed after drinking poisoned water, lies near a water hole in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, September 27, 2013.
The carcass of an elephant which was killed after drinking poisoned water, lies near a water hole in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, September 27, 2013.
Nearly 100 elephants have been killed with cyanide over the last few months in western Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, leaving anti-poaching agencies worried about the broader implications of poachers turning to poison in order to collect ivory. 
 
In September, ten poachers were arrested in what anti-poaching advocates say was the largest single killing of elephants in Zimbabwe's history. Since May, 90 elephants have been killed after feeding from salt licks that have been poisoned with a mixture of cyanide and lead.
 
Three of the poachers have already been convicted, receiving sentences of 15 to 16 years and major fines. The remaining seven are set to go to court this month. More arrests are possible.
 
Caroline Washaya-Moyo, the public relations manager for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, is shocked by this new form of poaching is shocking and is worried about its potentially wide-reaching consequences.
 
"We were used to them putting snares, used to them shooting the elephants, we're used to them using the traditional way of poaching. But this is new and it is indiscriminate…anything that then feeds on the elephant, dies," pointed out Washaya-Moyo.
 
Cyanide shuts down cellular respiration; the poison puts the body into a coma with seizures and cardiac arrest. Death occurs quickly after ingestion.
 
Along with elephants, one lion, two water buffaloes, one kudu, two painted dogs and several vultures have been killed by the poison.
 
Tom Milliken heads the elephant and rhino program for TRAFFIC, an organization that monitors the illegal trade of ivory. He noted that the use of chemical agents to kill wildlife opens a new front in the battle against poachers.
 
"It’s really a crime against ecology really. You've got a poisoned food chain….We also see it in the rhino wars where certain agricultural chemicals have been put into oranges and melons and things and left out for rhinos sometimes elephants. The advantage to poisoning, from a poacher's perspective, is that with no gunshot you're not drawing attention to yourself….We're seeing more of this," said Milliken.
 
The cyanide and lead mixture that was put into salt licks in Hwange also traveled into watering holes.
 
The parks authority has been working with the country's Environmental Management Agency to clean up the poisoned areas and neutralize any leftover cyanide.
 
Washaya-Moyo says Zimbabwe's parks system, which is already struggling financially, now has to begin to stretch its resources even further to address another form of poaching.
 
"For starters, we need to train our rangers, to manage the park. By that I mean to say to how then do they identify that a salt lick has been poisoned… How do they test for cyanide? Obviously it changes a lot of things… So we are on high alert in all other national parks. We are insuring that our rangers also take care of themselves when they go out, not to just drink water from any natural sources within the park," said Washaya-Moyo.
 
Milliken says that as the demand for ivory has grown, and as certain elephant and rhino populations have been drastically reduced, poachers are moving south.
 
"One of the things that concerns me is that the killing fields of Central Africa are really depleted now, and I think we're really going to see attention turned to those countries that have large elephants population like Zimbabwe, possibly Botswana, Namibia, where poaching has been on a much [smaller] scale than elsewhere in Africa," said Milliken.
 
With these areas being targeted more, the Zimbabwean parks system will need more help than ever, but Washaya-Moyo claims they are lacking; she says the park should have at least 700 employees on staff, but has only 140. Staff don't have two-way radios, lack uniforms, and don't have enough firearms or vehicles. Each officer is tasked with protecting 200 square kilometers of park.
 
"We're understaffed; we're under resourced; we're finically constrained. For us to contribute meaningfully to protecting wildlife in this country we need a minimum of $40 million United States dollars," said Washaya-Moyo.
 
Milliken worries that the only way to stop such poaching is for international law enforcement to target the kingpins of poaching, rather than the street-level poachers, who can easily be replaced.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid