A few weeks ago Inhabitat reported that three men were arrested in Zimbabwe for pouring cyanide into a watering hole and killing 81 elephants. Now, the death toll has risen to include over 300 elephants, in addition to a variety of other wildlife. Representatives from the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force discovered the additional deaths and claim that they were not revealed sooner because of a cover-up within the country to protect poachers.
As of last week, about 325 elephants and numerous lions, hyenas, vultures and painted dogs had been killed after drinking the poisoned water. The first deaths were discovered in July, but government officials didn’t step in until September, according to the task force. Once they did step in, a few low-level poachers were arrested but the real leaders were left free. “Those who have been arrested and convicted are the small fries who are being used as scapegoats while the big and dangerous fish are untouched. These include politicians and big business people,” said Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the task force.
Police have asked villagers to turn over any remaining cyanide by the end of this month, but the combination of a lucrative ivory market, worth up to $10 billion a year, and very little enforcement, with just 50 rangers protecting 120,000 elephants in over 5,600 miles of land, means that poaching will likely continue. Those already arrested will pay $800,000 and serve up to 15 years.