Police say the poisoning of 41 elephants at a National Park in Zimbabwe could have a devastating effect on the local ecosystem.
The cyanide poisoning of 41 elephants in Zimbabwe could kill hundreds of scavenger animals that feast on their remains, police have warned.
Detectives say they have broken a syndicate of six poachers who allegedly added the deadly chemical to a pool used by elephants to drink.
But they warned that the deaths could have far reaching consequences.
Chief Inspector Muyambirwa Muzzah said: “What they were doing is very cruel because it does not end with the death of the elephants.
“We have what we call the fourth generation effect due to the potency of cyanide as a poison. Animals that feed on the dead elephants will die and those that feed on the dead animals will also die.
“It will go back on the food chain and hundreds of animals may end up dead.”
The gang used salt laced with cyanide to kill the elephants after targeting pools of water at Hwange National Park, the Zimbabwe Chronicle claimed.
After they died, their tusks would be cut off. Some 17 tusks valued at $120,000 (£76,724) have been recovered by police.
According to the newspaper Chief Insp Muzzah said the accused were caught after rangers heard gunshots from the national park on August 24.
He told the newspaper: “They went with the police to investigate and found two elephants that had been killed and dehorned.
“On further investigation, inside the game park, they found rotting carcasses of dehorned elephants. There were tracks, made by three people near the animals and they followed those to the Mafu homestead.”
Police then laid a trap for the gang members after recovering the tusks. National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrest of six men.
According to the Mail and Guardian, the poaching of elephants in Africa has dramatically increased with a recent report saying at least 25,000 were killed on the continent last year.
The report also said the illegal ivory trade had double since 2007.