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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid