Authorities at the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe have confirmed the death of at least 87 elephants from ingesting cyanide laced into their natural salt licks during the past four weeks. Six poachers were arrested in August for poisoning 47 elephants after their carcasses were found near the Zimbabwe-Zambia border, and concerns have been raised as to how many other animals may have been affected according to the nation’s Environment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who has vowed to push for stricter jail sentences for the culprits.
The Sanctuary’s authority has (so far recovered) 51 tusks, leaving 123 in the hands of the poachers, reported.Caroline Washaya-Moyo, public relations manager for Zimbabwe's Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
Hwange, the size of Switzerland, is the third largest wildlife sanctuary in Africa. And while the government claims that there are approximately 100,000 elephants in the country, Johnny Rodrigues, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Conservative Task Force stated that a count of 35,000 would be more accurate.
Rodrigues has been very vocal in criticizing Zimbabwe for not doing enough to “clamp down on poachers and of creating an impression that the country had more elephants than it can sustain.”
"They want permission from Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to sell the ivory they have in stock and they think they will get it if there are too many elephants here," he stated.
CITES, also known as the Washington Convention, aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants is kept to a minimum to avoiding threatening their existence.
The rising demand for ivory (as well as rhino horns) in China, as well as other Asian countries has fueled an immense slaughter of elephants. In fact, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the WWF conservation group have said that as many as 30,000 African elephants have been killed annually in recent years, adding up to the horrifying statistic that .one elephant losing its life to poachers every 15 minutes.”
Among the groups actively working to combat the gruesome trade and ivory trafficking is The Clinton Foundation based in New York, which hopes to educate consumers so they no longer purchase real ivory.
"This is not just an ecological disaster; it is an economic and security threat as well," she said. "Tourism, a vital source of income for many of the most-affected African countries, is threatened if wildlife preserves are depopulated,” wrote Chelsea Clinton last month.