Ivory Poachers In Zimbabwe Reportedly Using Cyanide Laced Food As Bait

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

african-elephantIn another low in the animal poaching world poachers are reportedly starting to utilize cyanide in hunting protected elephants.

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


Deutsche Welle
Photo Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim

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11 thoughts on “Ivory Poachers In Zimbabwe Reportedly Using Cyanide Laced Food As Bait”

  1. What a heartbreaking waste. The carcass doesn’t even feed any of the hungry; it just goes to the scavengers, which would then die from cyanide poisoning.

    What people need to remember, too, is that these economies are struggling. It’s hard for villagers to value elephants roaming free when rich foreigners offer them a relative fortune to poach them.

    The only way to save the elephant is to make them worth more alive than dead to the locals, and then to try to dry up the cultural desire for ivory and other exotic animal parts.

  2. Subtract 2 or 3 commenters and you have a civil thread. Even some lame humor from a tyger.

  3. Tit for tat. A poacher kills an elephant and the poacher should be killed. His kids killed if he killed more than one elephant.

  4. I once considered becoming a dentist for elephants. I thought I would open my practice in Alabama. Why? Because the Tuscaloosa there.

    Seriously, I think all countries should suspend their foreign aid payments to any country that has no laws against killing animals like elephants, rhinos, or other rare large species like them, along with an outright embargo if they don’t vigorously enforce those laws if they have them. And poachers should be executed immediately upon conviction. Putting a bounty on the heads of poachers isn’t a bad idea, either.

    If humanity doesn’t respect the other animals on this planet and take serious steps to prevent their slaughter, it will become a lonely world without them.

  5. You folks on Planet Earth should respect the elephants. To trade in their ivory is to guarantee their extinction. To own the ivory is to support the slaughter. There never was a legal killing and hence there never was legal ivory. And I can see why folks in Amerca harken back to the good old days of slavery and fly their Confederate Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. I spent time in Germany and there are similar folks of different strokes who fly the Nazi flag– or hang it in their private rooms. The Germans will tell you that it is part of their “heritage”. Or some will. All colonies in America but one had slavery. Some states got rid of it along the way and by the time of your civil war is was a north/south thing. There ain’t no cotton in New York. Lots of refugees from the Holocaust made it to New York. Lots of ex slaves and offspring made it to New York. Neither of those two groups will really appreciate your heritage and Confederate Flag. Ivory poachers might.

  6. BarkinDog – I am an admirer of ivory carvings and have a couple of friends who own some. The hard part about the piece is knowing if the original ivory was illegal to begin with. I have no problems with a Confederate Battle flag. My state was part of the Confederacy.

  7. If you go to some person’s home and spot some Ivory artifact consider chastising the owner thereof. If pee did not display Ivory artifacts and love the carvings and what not then the Ivory would not be a viable commodity and hence elephants would not get killed. It is kind of like someone who displays a Confederate Flag or a Klan hood in their home.

  8. Start waxing a few poachers and traffickers and pressure China to do the same. Idiots are still idiots regardless of their culture and beliefs. Where’s nut job Mugabe when you need him?

  9. Just accept donations to be awarded to the winners of the Pluck a Poacher Contest. When the reward for the Plucked Poacher competes with the poach, it should thin the herd of them out too. It could be listed and promoted by guides and game hunting charters as Scandalous Two Legged Game Hunts with the added bonus of the Pluck a Poacher contest entry.

  10. “Controls are apparently lax….no arrests have been made.” That pretty much says it all. No real disincentives for the poachers. Other governments could use trade embargos or cut foreign aid until Zimbabwe makes significant progress in protecting these animals, but I don’t expect much action in that regard…..the U.S. can’t even deal with the ragtag group of psychos who call themselves ISIS.

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