Poachers Are Poisoning Hwange Elephants by the Dozen

posted: 10/27/15
by: Danny Clemens
Silhouetted elephants in Hwange
Gallo Images/Russell Johnson/Getty Images

Another 22 elephants in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park have been poisoned to death, park officials have announced.

Authorities located the animals' carcasses on Monday morning. Despite the large number of elephants killed, poachers were reportedly only able to make off with three tusks.

The latest round of cyanide poisoning follows two previous incidents earlier this month. The Associated Press reports that 62 Zimbabwean elephants have succumbed to cyanide in October, many of them within the confines of Hwange.

"The rate at which we are losing animals to cyanide is alarming," parks spokeswoman Caroline Washaya-Moyo told the agency in an interview. "Many other species are also dying from the cyanide used by poachers to target elephants."

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Poachers armed with poison have been known to leave cyanide-laced oranges and salt licks throughout the park. A rash of poisonings in the autumn of 2013 claimed as many as 135 elephants in the park and its surrounding areas, according to a study from Zimbabwe's Chinhoyi University of Technology.

After that incident, experts raised concern over the amount of cyanide present in the ecosystem and its possible impact on other species.

"Concerns focused on the persistence of cyanide in the environment, its reaction after exposure to open, hot and dry conditions, and its effect on water systems either through surface contamination or underground seepage," study authors wrote.

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