More than fourteen elephants were poisoned by poachers recently — their bodies found rotting along the borders of Hwange National Park. 

Poachers have resorted to using poison to kill elephants as an alternative to rifles. Rifle shots alert park rangers, directing them to their location. Poison is easily attainable in Zimbabwe including paraquat, an herbicide used by farmers, and a sodium cyanide solution that is utilized by area miners.

These poisons are extremely toxic to animals and in addition to killing elephants have had an effect on other wildlife as well. Predators and scavengers that feed on the poisoned remains have been dying, including lions, hyenas, and jackals. These poisons are leaking into water sources too, leading to widespread environmental contamination.

Ten elephant bodies were found last week and four more just a few days later.

Thick vegetation and limited road access has made patrolling difficult, especially around the remote southern and northeastern borders of the park where most of the bodies have been located. A mother and her calf were among them. Many of the elephants had their tusks cut off.

The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority responded quickly and efficiently, resulting in the uncovering of a bucket of poison near the northern border. Three arrests have already been made and one of these had been in possession of ivory.

Rangers are allowed to shoot confirmed poachers on site. “Poachers lucky to be captured alive are immediately given a minimum jail sentence of nine years if they are found with ivory or poison,” Trevor Lane, co-founder of the Bhejane Trust which monitors poaching activities in the area, stated to the Guardian.

Watch this video about a similar incident that occurred a few years ago: