By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Rangers for the Hwange National Park stated they discovered six elephant carcasses having their tusks removed. A week later, four more died but had not yet suffered the harvesting of their ivory. Necropsies and pathology tests of the animals’ kidneys and livers revealed the presence of cyanide. Matusadona National Park later lost three elephants to the same fate. Historically, cyanide is used in poaching of exotic fish.
The effect of cyanide often leads to deaths involving convulsions and considerable suffering if death is not immediate, adding to the cruel ordeal poachers exact upon the elephants.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Spokeswoman Caroline Washaya-Moyo stated poachers left corn cobs, oranges, and salt licks spiked with cyanide to lure the elephants to their deaths. Cyanide is readily available as it is used in the silver and gold mining industry. Controls are apparently lax.
“No arrests have been made in all the cases and investigations are still in progress,” she added.
I suspect one of the advantages of cyanide use is that it kills silently, unlike large game rifles having loud reports capable of attracting attention for miles. Furthermore, there is no need to carry arms that can lead to probable cause if poachers are contacted by rangers before their hunts. A simple basket of fruit could be all that is visible and therefore not attractive of suspicion. Moreover, the amount of cyanide necessary to carry is not large, even considering the size of the animals. A simple toss of poisoned food from a passing vehicle could likely be all that is required.
With demand on the rise, poachers are not easily going to give up their trade. They will continually show a willingness to adapt when prices remain high.
By Darren Smith
Photo Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim
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