via ZANU PF ‘bigwigs’ implicated in over 300 elephant deaths | SW Radio Africa by Alex Bell on Monday, October 21, 2013
Senior government officials, including cabinet ministers, have been implicated in the mass poisoning of elephants in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, with the death toll said to be well over 300.
According to a report in the Standard newspaper senior government officials, including cabinet ministers, “are now threatening villagers, whom they sent to kill elephants on their behalf, so they don’t reveal their names.”
The report does not name who the officials are, but goes on to say that there are five individuals who have been identified as being involved. The report claims that the individuals are offering cash bribes to villages to “buy their silence.”
One source was quoted as saying: “Some of them are said to have actually supplied cyanide to runners who in turn gave it to villagers to poison water sources.”
Another source said there are “tigers and flies” in the elephant-cyanide death scandal, with the ‘flies’ being the villagers being used by “powerful politicians to poison the elephants on their behalf.”
Johnny Rodrigues, the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) agreed that high level authorities are involved, claiming there is a “cover up operation” underway. He said the entire Hwange Park is on “lockdown,” with a heavily military presence being witnessed.
“Since July, there have been more than 300 elephants killed and hundreds of other animals too, who eat the poisoned meat and also die. So this is not a crisis anymore, this is a disaster,” Rodrigues said.
He added that the authorities are refusing to allow independent investigators access to the park, and the figures he has obtained are according to eyewitnesses who have gathered information from helicopter scouting trips over the park.
“We can’t prove who the individuals involved are but the whole place is on lockdown and it seems they have something to hide. It seems like a big cover up is happening,” Rodrigues said.
The ZANU PF run government last month said it would be clamping down on poachers, after a number of elephants carcasses were discovered in the park. Since then, the death toll has continued to climb while a number of suspected poaching syndicate members have been arrested.