Seven men, believed to be part of two gangs that recently poisoned elephants with cyanide in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park have been arrested, a local conservation group said on Tuesday.
Four of the men appeared in court in Hwange town on Monday and one of them has already been handed a 10-year jail term, said the Bhejane Trust.
It said the four, who are from the town of Dete near Hwange “have been involved in a poaching syndicate using weapons and cyanide”.
“The speed at which these poachers appeared in court shows how seriously the authorities are taking the poaching issue in this part of Zimbabwe,” the group said.
The other arrested men are due in court soon.
60 Elephants have been found dead from cyanide poisoning
Around 60 elephants have been found dead from cyanide poisoning in and around Hwange since September. The Zimbabwe government said earlier this month it would send soldiers to national parks to help game rangers combat the scourge.
Trevor Lane, of the Bhejane Trust told News24 in a phone interview on Tuesday that two other arrested suspects were from Tsholotsho, a district on the southern border of Hwange National Park.
“Two of them from Tsholotsho also had ivory, so they’ll get their nine or ten years [in jail],” he said. Another arrested suspect is believed to be an ivory buyer from the second city of Bulawayo, he added.
Villagers from Tsholotsho were believed to be involved in a wave of cyanide poisonings in 2013 that killed around 200 elephants.
Unconfirmed reports say that a pack of nine endangered wild dogs was recently found dead from suspected cyanide poisoning at a water hole in Mana Pools, a popular national park on the banks of the Zambezi River around 650km from Hwange.