A Zimbabwe court sentenced a poacher to more than 15 years in prison on Wednesday, for poisoning and killing elephants with cyanide. The conviction was the fourth concerning the poisoning in a month, and the accused still faces charges for cyanide possession and for contravening environmental laws.
The Hwange court also found Akim Masuku, 26, guilty of illegal possession of ivory, handing down a total jail term of 15-and-a-half years, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority said in a statement. Zimbabwean poachers had poisoned roughly 100 elephants in Hwange national park, which holds one of the world’s largest herds.
"One hundred elephants have died in Hwange National Park due to cyanide poisoning and 12 people have since been arrested and four have been convicted and sentenced," a representative of Hwange national park said in a statement.
A Masuku accomplice, Norma Ncube, 18, is set to stand trial on October 30. The three other poachers also convicted in the poisoning were also sentenced to at least 15 years, and were fined $600,000.
Park officials have given area villages until the end of October to hand over any cyanide that's laying around, or possibly risk arrest themselves.
Many cyanides are highly toxic, though the most hazardous compound is of the hydrogen variety. People have used hydrogen cyanide on other people for ages, and fisherman around the world use it in the controversial practice of cyanide fishing. Essentially, it’s extremely nasty stuff.
Zimbabwean environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere stated, “we are declaring war on the poachers – We are responding with all our might because our wildlife, including the elephants they are killing, are part of the natural resources and wealth that we want to benefit the people of Zimbabwe.”
Elephant tusks and other body parts are highly sought after in Asia and the Middle East for ornamental and traditional medicine use.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.