via Villagers hand over cyanide as Hwange trust team eyes sponsors | SW Radio Africa by Alex Bell November 6, 2013
Villagers near the Hwange National Park, the site of the mass poisoning of elephants in recent weeks, have reportedly handed over unspecified amounts of the deadly cyanide chemical used by poachers in the park.
According to a report in the Chronicle newspaper, the villagers in Tsholotsho dumped the cyanide on the side of the road, almost a week after the end of a government set deadline to surrender the poison.
Chief Siphoso from Pumula area in Tsholotsho was quoted by the Chronicle as saying that the cyanide was handed over to police. However Chief Siphoso said the people who gave up the chemical could not be identified as they dumped the substance near Pelandaba Primary School, under the cover of darkness.
“I cannot tell who these people are because bafika bajikela endleleni eduze lesikolo (they just dumped it on a path near the school). All the cyanide we got was dumped by unknown individuals. Last time we also picked up some near Phelela Primary. In all these cases we have informed the police,” said Chief Siphoso.
According to the official figures supplied by the Zimbabwe National Parks Authority, over 100 elephants have died as a result of the cyanide poisoning. The discovery of over 40 carcasses at the end of August sparked international outrage and saw a serious crackdown being launched. Since then, nine people, all said to be members of poaching syndicates, have been arrested for the elephant slaughter.
Untold numbers of other animals have also been affected by the poisoning, which conservation groups insist has killed 300 elephants in the Park since July. Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told SW Radio Africa that a ‘cover up’ operation is underway, allegedly because of the involvement of high ranking government officials.
“There is a big controversy, with certain individuals in authority saying they’ve only lost over 100 animals, but eyewitnesses we’ve spoken to counted 300,” Rodrigues said.
He added: “It actually doesn’t make a difference how many animals were killed. The issue is that the animals were poisoned and someone is accountable for it.”
He emphasised that an independent investigation needs to be allowed to take place to uncover exactly who is responsible.
“It bothers me when a team that is government orientated is saying what should be made public. They should get the professionals to come in and do the investigation. This has been going on for 30 years. Let’s go to the stage where we can stop this,” Rodrigues said.
The Chronicle report comes as the fundraising team, appointed by the Environment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere to head up a trust for the Hwange Park, have started eyeing possible sponsors.
The six member Wildlife Ecological Trust (WET) is starting its fundraising efforts with the first of many gala events being held next week. Tickets for the fundraising dinner range between $100 to $5000 for a table of 10 people.
The team has been tasked with seeking at least $5 million to help the cash strapped National Park in its conservation and anti-poaching efforts. One of their plans is reportedly to finance the ‘de-toxification’ of the salt licks poisoned with cyanide in Hwange.