More than 300 elephants killed with cyanide

cyanide_warning_smallCyanide has been used to kill more than 300 elephants in Zimbabwe’s biggest nature reserve – three times the original estimate as new photographs show the scale of the slaughter.

The full extent of the devastation wreaked in Hwange National Park has been revealed by legitimate hunters who discovered what conservationists say is the worst massacre in Southern Africa for 25 years.

Pictures reveal horrific scenes. Parts of the park can be seen from the air to be littered with the corpses of elephants, often with their calves dead beside them.

There is now deep concern that the use of cyanide – first revealed in July – represents a new and particularly damaging technique in the already soaring poaching trade. Zimbabwean authorities had said that 90 animals were killed in this way. But the hunters say they counted more than 300 carcasses.

Poachers killed them by lacing water holes and salt licks with cyanide. Animals are drawn to them during the dry season in the arid section of the 9100km2 park.

Authorities say the cyanide is planted by villagers who sell the elephants’ tusks for about R4750 each to cross-border traders. They can be resold in South Africa for up to R15 800 a pair, according to court papers relating to one recent incident .

Zimbabwe has one of Africa’s biggest elephant populations, and half of its estimated 80000 are thought to live in Hwange.

Conservationists say the African elephant is under so much threat from habitat loss, illegal poaching and hunting that it could be extinct within 50 years. – Daily Telegraph