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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mass poaching incident threatens ecosystem

Hwange National Park
At least 91 African elephants have been killed since May of this year in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, due to a large-scale poaching enterprise. The poachers poisoned 35 different salt licks, all of which were close to waterholes frequented by the giant mammals, with a cyanide/salt/water mixture. The animals are being illegally killed for their tusks, which are in high demand for 'folk medicines' in Asia.

Beyond the destruction of the animals themselves scientists are expressing concerns over the possibility of a 'spiral-effect' resulting from this incident. The cyanide-laden animal remains are fed upon by many carnivores in the park, including lions and vultures, which will likely be poisoned themselves.

African elephant
Adding to the dire situation is the fact the carcasses have been discovered near the aforementioned water-holes, which not only poisons drinking-water sources for dozens of species but also poses a threat to the groundwater. Researchers fear these combined could adversely affect the entire ecosystem for years to come, turning it into a major, long-term crisis.

Poachers have been using such vile tactics for years, and Zimbabwe's Hwange has always been a target for those in the illegal trade. There has been speculation that well-connected Zim cartels are responsible for this latest incident, though no definitive proof has been provided. The park, which Authority in the African nation considers a national treasure, has some of the planet's largest herds of this particular species of elephant.

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