Ecological disaster hits Hwange


Isdore Guvamombe in HWANGE—-
THE elephant death toll from cyanide poisoning by poachers in Hwange National Park has risen to 64, amid indications the ecological disaster was the work of a syndicate sponsored by a South African businessman who used the deadly poison to kill elephants since 2009,albeit on a smaller scale, investigations have revealed.

Cyanide, is a fast-acting poison, that was stockpiled as a chemical weapon in the arsenals of both the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, and that requires up to a generation to bio-degrade on a large scale.

The poaching levels, however, reached fever pitch early this year as the nation focused on the constitutional referendum, the harmonised elections and United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly, culminating in the horrendous poisoning that has claimed at least 64 elephants and other game in what Government has declared an ecological disaster.

Environmentalists say the effects of the cyanide are likely to take a generation to wear off as it is assimilated in crops and ground water to affect an even wider area from where it was administered.

The South African businessman who was only identified as Ishmael, reportedly used Chivhu farmer and businessman-cum-ivory buyer Farai Chitsa as his middleman to allegedly distribute 3kg of the deadly chemical among villagers in Pelandaba and Pumula areas of Tsholotsho.

Chitsa allegedly bought the cyanide at US$50 per kg through unorthodox means from a company in Bulawayo, circumventing laid-down dangerous substances procurement procedures that require a buyer to be licensed.

Chitsa allegedly recruited brothers, Sipho and Misheck Mafu, who in turn recruited other villagers into the syndicate that would enter the tinder dry Hwange National Park, make a salt, water and cyanide solution and either poison salt pans, where elephants normally dig holes to gambol on salty soil or fix into the ground metal and plastic containers with the deadly solution. Soon after drinking or gambolling on the solution, the elephants would die, within metres from the scene and there has been huge spiral effects befitting an ecological disaster, which has seen the death of primary predators such as lions, jackals and vultures, among others, after feeding on the contaminated carcasses.

In instances where the poachers used high concentrates of the cyanide, the level of carcass decomposition has been sporadic.
Buffalo and kudu that also frequent salt pans have been killed, although on a smaller scale.

Chitsa has since been arrested in Tsholotsho where he reportedly sought to collect elephant tusks, but ran out of luck, when a kombi he had hired to carry the contraband got stuck in the Kalahari sands.

A combined operation between police and National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers has combed the communal lands and recovered 19 tusks, cyanide and wire snares.

Some of the suspects, including the Mafu brothers, have been forthcoming with information and have since been taken for indications.
“The Mafu brothers accounted for 18 elephants. But the total has come to 64. The other villager accounted for 15 alone. We discovered that some of the tusks had also been sold and for instance, the villagers were paid a paltry US$700 for nine tusks in one incident. They are doing it for that little.

“We took them for indications and they showed us all the cyanide traps and they knew each and every position. They were even leaving behind carcasses with smaller tusks,’’ said Hwange Parks area manager My Trumber Jura.

Police Assistant Commissioner Micheck Mabunda yesterday said the joint operation with parks had been successful. “Our joint operation ended today. It was successful in that we managed to recover ivory, we managed to account for some of the culprits and we managed to get information that we can use in the future. That was very successful in my view. “Going forward, there is however, need to come up with a comprehensive patrol system which uses even helicopter flights. We need greater presence in the areas like what is done on the Botswana side.

“Our Pandematenga Border Post would be the most ideal place to operate flights from. At the moment, poachers run away from flights in Botswana and once they are in our territory, we cannot do the same. An aircraft is needed but of course, in the final analysis, ground patrols are the best for anti-poaching,’’ he said.

This is the first poaching disaster of its kind in Zimbabwe and has forced Government to re-think and come up with new solutions to combat rampant poaching.

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  • Moe_Syzlack

    This never used to happen when we had real jobs and real livelihoods. Welcome to ZANU’s ‘landslide’ economic revival. People are living out pre-historic lives and drinking borehole water now.

    • L Makombe

      This is the blame game. Do you mean to say all those not gainfully employed are poachers. How many villagers and even those in the cities who do not have jobs are living honest lives. These poachers are agents of the devil, and those who support them by finding flimsy excuses are also children of the devils. Why should the community be deprived of clean water just because of the gullible individuals. Moe, be realistic and do not support irresponsible activities, just because you hate ZANU(PF). By the way which party do you support and what has it done for the people of Zimbabwe.

      • Love you elephant

        I think the media can play a big role in highlighting this terrible incident. This is greed not Zanu (PF).. We have face the fact that the US$ has made people very greedy. Please print pictures of the culprits and let Zimbabwe know that our animals are protected. We love our animals. Lets start a champaign on the poachers.

      • Tendekayi Machivenyika

        This is fact. Noone, poor and unemployed, would poison the very water they will be drinking next. These are just unknowing villagers who were used for paltry figures. People with get rich quick schemes are the ones who masterminded this.

      • Moe_Syzlack

        If I have a nice job and decent life, why on earth would I go into the poaching business? People are poor and will do whatever it takes to eke a living. Even in SA poaching exists for the same reason. Improve our lives, give us jobs, make the sewage water go away, give us electricity, get our kids into decent schools. Only then will the senselessness stop.

        • idi-kwe

          shame on yu……….. stop being politically senseless on all aspects in life……. yu are a disgrace even to yo own tribe/clan…. i am even ashamed to call yu my fellow country man…

    • Bullet at Falls

      poaching is rampant in SA, how do you explain that


      Moe you are using your knees to think. When you read this article, did you understand it? Did you understand its effects now and in future? You are the type of people who create misery for themselves and blame others for that. Kumwewo kusafunda kunotovewo disaster. Do you know what it means when the professionals declare the happening at this scale, an ecological disaster?Please do not pollute Zimbabweans with your poisonous or Cyanide thinking. You should be very concerned than to be cheaply political.

    • jore

      I think you have lost it my brother on this one. This has nothing to do with ZANU PF at all. I will agree with Makombe to say, lets stop the blame game. Poaching has always been there with the Zambians recking havoc in that park. I think in some issues, we need to put our political differences aside and see how best we can help each other.

    • Anabelle

      Your comment betrays a lack of reasoning ability. Personally I’d be ashamed to expose myself thus but I suppose it’s important to know that there are people who think this way.

  • Equalisar

    Tax payer’s money shouldn’t be wasted on these people in courts, just give them cyanide and rid them from the society.


    This need urgent attention,let them rot in jail these culprits!!

  • Farai Hove

    This is a dark hour for the Zimbabwean Environmental Lobbyists, Animal lovers the Ministries of Environment, Tourism and of course the generality of Zimbabweans. Happening as it does when we have started another chapter in our history, a journey that we are hoping will take us out of the multiple problems that we have faced in the past decade. Surely, do we need this to be happening now? It is time we had a co-ordinated approach in SADC, particularly those countries that have a significant wildlife dominated by the so called Big Five comprising the African Lion, the Buffalo, the Elephant, the Leopard and the Rhino, and track the buyers to Asia where there is a lucrative market for the by products of such heinous and evil bounty. He who ultimately buys and thus funds these syndicates must be identified and face the full wrath of the law. They cannot outwit our collective effort. We owe it to posterity to do something, and do it now!


      Thank you for your progressive approach, Farai

    • juba

      I fully agree with your sentiments Farai, and I think a SADC wide approach is very necessary.

      • Hacha Ndizvo

        The imperial Western countries have the ideal solution – a remote monitored drone.

  • hondo yenzara

    this all because of poverty. While this act is totally unacceptable, we must acknowledge that Zimbabweans have been reduced to nothing following years of economic decay. Only a few are living decent lives. Untill the economy is sorted fo which there seem to be no solution in sight for now, such things will continue to happen. however the law should be respected.


      No this is not caused by poverty. Rather, it is caused by greed and we should not bring cheap politics to such a national concern. Hondo yenzara should work for food on your table and from the sounds of your comment, you want everything to be easily provided to you while mabvi ari mudenga.

    • stalley

      Wow i like that coment hondo if everyone can stop voting for mugabe and something for a change which will provide our dialy needs we wont see this again.

    • Anabelle

      This goes beyond desperation, these “poor” poachers aren’t too stupid to understand that poison destroys whatever consumes it. This is caused by selfish greed, plain and simple. A desperate person might resort to stealing, NOT illegally obtaining cyanide and sneaking past game ranger patrols to destroy thousands if not millions worth of natural resources for the sake of a few dollars to their own pocket. Poverty’s no excuse for this degree of f_ckery.

  • Mudimbu

    Put a $10.000 bounty for information leading to the arrest of any poacher then give orders to shoot to kill for any poachers. That should protect our wildlife and keep the vermin in check.

  • gary

    my heart bleeds for these elephants. i actually cried reading this. the south african guy should be tracked down and be arrested because he is the master can one be so heartless.nxa

  • tinashe

    eish! seriously sad! is there a way of stopping the cynide action in the rest of the animals that may have consumed the water,or once taken, its effects cannot be reversed?? as for those idiots, make sure they never get out of jail!!

  • Godfrey Karecha

    Vanhu ivavo ngavarangwe zvinoenderana nemhosva yavo so much that tomorrow members of the public musn’t repeat that kind of behaviour

  • chaputika

    some people are heartless for sure. this means these people are also murders but i am ashamed by moe`s comment>>>>where does poaching link zanu pf? are south african poacher zanu pf as well? you really need devine man coz even the party you support also has been things that they do. dont mix political parties and poaching otherwise your comment is baseless all citizens have to be united to rebuild the country regardless of our political affiliations mann


    by a South African businessman who used the deadly poison to kill elephants
    since 2009, albeit on a smaller scale,
    investigations have revealed.” There should be a SADC spirit guiding
    the serious and further investigations on this matter. I am aware that South
    Africa will not tolerate this because they also have such large conservancies. Instead
    of describing this as killing of God’s creatures, this should be taken as
    murder. One way or another, this will somehow indirectly affect the human
    beings in that catchment area as the cyanide does not easily disappear from the
    environment. Our developmental thrust should be a sustained one where we look
    at the future generations and the future environment. Only tiny minds would want
    to turn this into a political issue instead of being very concerned about our

  • ganda dema

    Such cruelty to nature, a heavy sentence need to be effected to set an example to future porchers.

  • Mizha

    Authorities should ensure that all the cyanide is collected from all these villagers who were tricked by this rogue businessman. Authorities should also recover the water laced with cyanide to ensure that that the aquifers are not contaminated. If this is not properly managed, the entire villages might be wiped out. Human beings will die in numbers. it is better to be pro active than to wait for disaster strike on humans. measures should also put in place to block wild animals from drinking in areas where these poachers had set their traps. Sad day indeed for Zimbabwe. Keep up the good work Isdore

  • Rick

    Vibrant minister and saviour hero basa .We know munozviita

  • Naresh Patel

    This is really sad. PLEASE PUT AN END TO IT. The police and National parks
    authorities need to deal with this.

  • Mudzidzisi Ticha Benard

    even senior politicians hasve been fingered in poaching. we are destroying our own country

  • Jeredzwa Balance

    I think it would be good to deploy the National Army to help stop poaching and protect this important national resource that brings in millions of tourist dollars.

  • idi-kwe

    ndarwadziwa nhasi……….. 64 now………vanhu venyika yangu, tapindwa neiko………. kuda mari zvakaipa zvinotiparadza kudai……….. ndarwadziwa……ndopaunonzwa rimwe richit heee its unemployment…….. nxaaaaaaa!………