via Fallout from cyanide poisoning of Hwange National Park waterhole Gill Staden, eTN
Over 100 elephants were killed from a poisoned waterhole in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe in September. The waterhole had cyanide in it. That 100 elephants died we know, but we do not know the number of other animals which also died from drinking at the waterhole. We do not know how many predators died after eating from the carcasses. We do not know how many vultures died, too. The fallout from this terrible act will probably never be known.
The poachers have been arrested from nearby villages. But how did they get their hands on cyanide? Cyanide is used in mining and its sale is restricted to licensed mining companies. After a search of the nearby villages 240 kg of cyanide was found in their houses. How much more is still in the hands of the villagers and is still waiting to be used in waterholes in Hwange? These are questions authorities are asking themselves.
Although we can lock up the actual poachers and put them away for many years, the “big fish” who supplied and gave the idea to these villagers are still out there. And we need to know who they are. Suspicion is falling on senior army, police and CIO officers who have been given mining rights in the area under the indigenization program.
Zimbabwe has been reduced to such a dire state with so much poverty in the rural areas that there will be many desperately hungry people who will be willing to use cyanide again in Hwange’s waterholes. They may only be given US$100 for a tusk but it is enough to keep them in food for a while.
The problem is, of course, that there has to be political will to stop a repeat of this disaster. The police and authorities have to investigate seriously to find out which companies supplied this cyanide to the villagers. They also have to look at how, and who, gets the elephant tusks out of the country. Is this an organized mafia-style syndicate? And who will they come up against in their investigations? I doubt that we will ever know, but let us hope that the owners of that cyanide are at least given a rap on their knuckles and don’t do it again. I think that is all we can hope for.