Elephants Found Poisoned, Mutilated Allegedly By Park Staff

| by Daniel Rivera
African ElephantsAfrican Elephants

Several elephants in a Zimbabwe reserve were allegedly poisoned and mutilated by park employees.

Caroline Washaya-Moyo, spokesperson for the parks and wildlife management authority, said the park rangers at Hwange National Park discovered the carcasses of 22 elephants with their heads chopped and 35 tusks removed on Oct. 26, the Daily Mail reports.

The incident is believed to have started after park staff did not receive their wages and proceeded to slaughter the creatures as a form of "protest."

Rangers had only recently received their pay from September, The Telegraph reports.

"Some of the rangers are very dissatisfied with their remuneration and say that they are not getting some allowances they believe they should get," a source close to Zimbabwe’s National Parks and Wildlife Authority told The Telegraph.

"So many of us believe that some of the poaching at the moment is organized and executed by some rangers in parks, and we don't know how this will be sorted out," the source added. 

The poachers used cyanide to poison the elephants and took three ivory tusks, according to the Daily Mail.

This recent incident brings the total number of elephant poisonings by poachers in the country to 62 for the month of October.

"The rate at which we are losing animals to cyanide is alarming," Washaya-Moyo told the Associated Press, according to the Daily Mail. "Many other species are also dying from the cyanide used by poachers to target elephants.

"We are appealing to people in communities close to national parks to cooperate with authorities."

Zimbabwe's Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri blamed the rise in poaching in the country on the United States' ban on elephant sport hunting.

"An elephant would cost $120,000 in sport hunting, but a tourist pays only $10 to view the same elephant," Muchinguri said, adding that sport-hunting funds are vital to conservation efforts.

The World Wildlife Fund classifies African elephants as a vulnerable species with a population of 470,000. Poaching for ivory and trophies is believed to play a part in their decline. The organization added African elephants have lost 50 percent of their range since 1979.

Sources: Daily Mail, The Telegraph, World Wildlife Fund / Photo credit: KouK/Flickr