Killing of ele­phants cause for con­cern

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

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

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