Zimbabwe loses over 40 elephants to poisoning in one month

More than 40 elephants have been killed in Zimbabwe this month as the country struggles to protect the large mammals from poachers.

Wildlife officials found the carcasses of 22 elephants poisoned by cyanide in Hwange National Park, the South African country’s biggest game reserve. Not less than 26 bodies of poisoned elephants had been found at the park earlier in the month.

“This is very sad,” Alvin Ncube, chairman of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority, said by phone Monday. “We have to bring in other security players because this is not good for conservation.”

Elephants are killed for their tusks, to satisfy the soaring demand for ivory in Asia. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)-MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) estimates that between 22 – 25,000 elephants are killed in Africa per year.

A government label is seen on an elephant tusk, registered in 1988, inside a carving and jewellery factory in Hong Kong, China October 23, 2015. Hong Kong is one of the largest ivory smuggling hubs in the world, with 8 tonnes of smuggled ivory seized in 2013 alone, according to the WWF. The Chinese territory has outlawed the import and export of African elephant tusks since the ban took effect in 1990, but shops are allowed to sell ivory products acquired before the ban. The trade of tusks from extinct mammoth is unregulated. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
A government label is seen on an elephant tusk, registered in 1988, inside a carving and jewellery factory in Hong Kong, China October 23, 2015. Hong Kong is one of the largest ivory smuggling hubs in the world, with 8 tonnes of smuggled ivory seized in 2013 alone, according to the WWF. The Chinese territory has outlawed the import and export of African elephant tusks since the ban took effect in 1990, but shops are allowed to sell ivory products acquired before the ban. The trade of tusks from extinct mammoth is unregulated. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

It is not only its wildlife that is depleting, Zimbabwe’s economy is also in a dire situation. The country recorded a year-on-year inflation of -3.11 percent for September, posting the world’s deepest deflation. According to Leading Oxford University-owned research unit, NKC African Economics (NKC), the country’s inability to control deflation is damaging to the economy in the medium to long term.

Zimbabwe is targeting a $5 billion tourism economy by 2020 but with recent elephant deaths and the killing of a rare black-maned lion named Cecil, who lived at the Hwange sanctuary, by an American hunter Walter Palmer, earlier this year, it is not strange for questions to arise about Zimbabwe’s commitment to growing tourism which could well be its saving grace as manufacturing continues its slump and unemployment keeps rising.