Killing of elephants cause for concern
EDITOR — Hwange National Park (NP) is arguably the largest national park in Zimbabwe covering approximately 15 000km2. The park is predominantly semi-arid with an estimated rainfall of roughly 550mm per annum.
Sources in the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority estimate that Hwange National Park is home to at least 100 mammal species and slightly above 350 bird species. The largest herbivores are the most dominant mammals in the park.
In 2013, 2015 and this year, media have been awash with scaring incidents of cyanide poisoning of elephants ( Loxodonta Africana) in the Hwange NP allegedly by poachers. Statistics on the exact number of jumbos which succumbed to poisoning is not very clear.
The butchering of elephants have inevitably sent a chilling shock wave worldwide to conservationists and ordinary people who viewed the act as malice and heinous to the ecosystem.
The poisoning and the elephant mortality in Zimbabwe, particularly in Hwange is the most callous act by humans and it is a relief that a few culprits who were nabbed have been incarcerated, but a lot more are thought to be gallivanting around apparently perpetuating their criminal escapades.
In my view, the wanton killing of elephants in the NP is socially and ecologically affecting people across the country. Apart from ruthlessly killing elephants using cyanide, other animal species including birds are succumbing to the poison. Vultures and several scavengers have perished after feeding on the remains of elephants.
According to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) quoted in the media, more than thirty waterholes and saltpans were laced with cyanide. Most elephant carcases found were without tusks a clear testimony that the jumbos were killed for monetary gains by unscrupulous and greedy individuals.
In my respective view, the mass destruction of elephants using such a lethal substance is perhaps because of poverty among the locals. About four locals from Jambezi and Lupane have since been given lengthy jail terms for offences related to the destruction of elephants and being found in possession of cyanide.
Indications in the Hwange District are that locals, perhaps in a bid to eke out a living, team up with Zambian nationals, among others, in killing the animals.
Meanwhile, some social commentators have said that another plausible reason for elephant killing could be disgruntlement over the unfair or uneven distribution of proceeds from the sale of elephants by authorities in the district while other proponents observed that some people could be defending the destruction of their crops by the jumbos since the animals have exceeded the carrying capacity of the parks.
Whatever the motive of poisoning the elephants, I condemn the illegal way of killing these animals as doing so gives rise to ecological imbalance and reduces biodiversity in the ecosystem. Legislatures should promulgate much harsher laws on offenders in order to deter potential hoodlums.
Severe jail terms should be visited on perpetrators and those found in possession of cyanide or any substance with a potential to cause harm to elephants or any wildlife at or near game parks.
Local elders such as chiefs should work hand in glove with wildlife authorities and educate citizens on the importance of conserving nature particularly animal species. Vigorous antipoaching campaigns should be held in both urban and rural areas and lots of patrols by security personnel should be massively done. Victor “The Broken Gasket” Sibanda, Victoria Falls
Some of the elephants that were poisoned with cyanide in the Hwange National Park in this file file photo