CYANIDE POISONING KILLS ELEPHANTS IN ZIMBABWE

    Ivory poachers have poisoned 14 elephants in two of Zimbabwe's national parks. Over the past two weeks, three elephants have been killed in Matusadona National Park and 11 more in Hwange National Park, the same park where Cecil the lion was shot in July.

     Some of the dead animals had their tusks removed, Carol Washaya, a spokeswoman for the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said in a statement.

     In all cases the elephants were killed by cyanide, according to kidney and liver samples from the dead elephants tested by the Biological Sciences Department, said parks spokesperson Caroline Washaya Moyo.
 
     When a person or animal is exposed to cyanide, breathing and functionality become immediately impaired and eventually lead to suffocation. 

     It’s believed that the poachers used orange peels and salt licks laced with cyanide as a means of quietly killing the mammals. Of those found dead, several were too young to have tusks; one was just three months old. 

Only four of the elephants were missing tusks,  but officials suspect that the poachers were disrupted before they could strip more ivory from the targeted group.

       With just 400,000 elephants remaining and nearly 100 illegally killed each day last year to feed the ivory trade, the species could go extinct by the end of the next decade. 
In 2013, as many as 300 elephants died in Hwange Park after poachers laced salt pans with cyanide.

       Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri blamed a ban on Zimbabwean elephant sport hunting by the United States for increased poaching.

     Although elephants are vulnerable across Africa, Zimbabwe has a large elephant population. It is estimated that it has more than 100,000, although the parks should ideally only support 40,000 elephants.

     Experts estimate that 70% of ivory ends up in China where it is made into trinkets, ornaments and cutlery. The economic boom China experienced prior to this year has created a huge market for ivory, creating such a demand 

that a pound of ivory can sell for over $1,000 (£650).

    ‘All this poaching is because of American policies, they are banning sport hunting. An elephant would cost 120,000 US dollars (£78,000) in sport hunting but a tourist pays only 10 US dollars (£6) to view the same elephant,’ she said, adding money from sport hunting is crucial in conservation efforts.

     Rampant poaching, coupled with legal hunting, has decimated populations in many areas, with 100,000 elephants killed in Africa from 2011 to 2013, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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