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Tuesday, 6 October 2015
11 elephants killed in new Hwange cyanide attack
Up to 11 elephants and several vultures have died in another case of cyanide poisoning in Zimbabwe.
State media in Bulawayo reported this weekend the carcasses of 10 poisoned elephants had been found in Hwange National Park. However, sources on Monday said the figure may actually be 11.
"There were four found outside Hwange Main Camp (but still inside the park)... It might be five," a conservationist from the Hwange area said in a telephone interview. He said another six carcasses were found beyond the park's boundary.
"They had just been poisoned. The way [poachers] do cyanide, they mix it in a bucket and tip it on the ground and the elephants eat it. They will die right there," he added.
He said because the carcasses were discovered just two days apart last week, "it would suggest the same person" was responsible.
The figure of 11 dead elephants was corroborated by another source on Monday, but the death toll was expected to rise.
This poisoning incident was separate from the one reported in Kariba last month, where three elephants died after eating cyanide-laced oranges.
The grim news triggers memories of the poisoning of dozens of elephants for their tusks in Hwange in 2013. In that incident, cyanide was placed on salt-licks in the dry park, with some reports indicating up to 300 elephants died.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has not yet confirmed the latest poisoning in Hwange, which was where Cecil the lion lived before being killed by a US dentist on an illegal hunt in July. Hwange is about 600km from the Zimbabwean capital ,Harare.
The state-owned Sunday News said "a number of" vultures had died after feeding off the elephants' carcasses.
It was not immediately clear if the tusks of the Hwange elephants had been removed.
Photos released on Monday by the Kariba Animal Welfare Trust of the elephants poisoned with cyanide in the resort town last month show the animals' tusks were intact.