The stench of rotting elephant carcasses hangs in the air in western Zimbabwe, where wildlife officials say at least 91 elephants were poisoned with cyanide by poachers who hack off the tusks for the lucrative illegal ivory market.
Massive bones, some already bleached by the blistering sun in the Hwange National Park, litter the landscape around one remote watering hole where 18 carcasses were found. Officials say cyanide used in gold mining was spread by poachers over flat "salt pans," also known as natural, mineral-rich salt licks. They say lions, hyenas and vultures have died from feeding on contaminated carcasses or drinking nearby...
Tusks of the poisoned elephants are thought to have been smuggled into neighboring South Africa through illicit syndicates that pay desperately poor poachers a fraction of the $1,500 a kilogram (2.2 pounds) that ivory can fetch on the black market.
Officials believe at least two deeply drilled wells supplying the water holes may have also been contaminated and will likely have to be sealed. New wells will probably be drilled away from the tainted ones. "We will drill more boreholes in the park because these criminals target areas where there is a shortage of water," said Kasukuwere...Photos and text via PhysOrg.
Kasukuwere said Hwange park, Africa's third largest wildlife sanctuary after the Serengeti in Tanzania and South Africa's Kruger National Park, has only about 150 rangers and few fully operational off-road vehicles for an expanse that ideally should have a staff of at least 700.
Scores of vultures, the first predators at a kill, have died from the cyanide. Rangers say their absence makes the ecological impact of the poisonings much harder to fight and control.