81 elephants poisoned in Zimbabwe

Ivory poachers lace waterhole with deadly cyanide

At least 81 elephants have been killed in Zimbabwe by ivory-hunting poachers who poisoned a waterhole with cyanide.

The attack, which happened in Hwange National Park – Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve – also killed other animals and predators which feed on them, but specific numbers are not yet known.

The elephant death toll includes 40 which had been killed using the same method earlier this month. Although just 50 rangers patrol the park, which covers an area of 5,660 square miles, nine suspected poachers have already been arrested after they were tracked to a hoard of hidden ivory.

Elephants at a waterhole in Hwange National Park

Zimbabwean Environment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere told Reuters: “We are declaring war on the poachers. We are responding with all our might because our wildlife, including the elephants they are killing, are part of the natural resources and wealth that we want to benefit the people of Zimbabwe.”

The strong stance is commendable, but despite best efforts the fact remains that thousands of elephants are still being killed each year in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa. The marked rise in the poaching of elephants (and rhinos) is partly fuelled by the increasing demand for ivory, particularly in some Asian countries where it is believed to hold medicinal values. Some animal rights groups and experts have claimed the poaching of African elephants is at an all-time high, even worse that the situation in the 1980s.

The bottom line is that more help is needed, both to protect these majestic species and to educate local communities about why they should be protected.

If you feel you are right for the job, have a look at our gap year opportunities for volunteering with elephants.