Mashudu Netsianda Senior Reporter
POLICE in conjunction with the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority yesterday arrested three more suspects and recovered an additional 28 carcasses of elephants which were allegedly poisoned and killed by poachers at the Hwange National Park.The latest arrests bring to nine the number of poachers arrested since the launch of the anti-poaching operation, with a total of 69 carcasses having been found so far.
A special ministerial team comprising the Ministers of Environment, Water and Climate Cde Saviour Kasukuwere, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Cde Walter Mzembi and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Professor Jonathan Moyo yesterday visited the national park to assess the situation.
In an interview yesterday, the officer commanding police in Lupane District, Chief Superintendent Johannes Govo, said they also recovered several tusks worth thousands of dollars and snares believed to have been used by the suspects.
“We have intensified our patrols at Hwange National Park and so far we have recovered 69 carcasses of elephants which were killed by poisoning.
“We have since established that the suspects are working as an organised syndicate targeting pools frequented by elephants at the national park and use salt laced with cyanide to kill the jumbos,” he said.
At the beginning of the month police arrested a six-man poaching syndicate with four of its members based in Bulawayo that allegedly poisoned and killed 41 elephants at Hwange National Park.
The suspects, Sipho Mafu (53) and Misheck Mafu (46) of Thula Line in Tsholotsho, Alexander Ngwenya (42) of 7654/15 Tshabalala, Farai Chitsa (34) of A6297 Old Pumula, Nqobizitha Tshuma (25) of 14 Taylor Avenue in North End and Tinashe Senwayo (22) of 2 Hofmeyer Square also in North End in Bulawayo have since appeared in court.
Chitsa is believed to be the mastermind of the poaching gang as he was believed to be the one who supplied the cyanide and is thought to be the one in charge of selling the tusks.
Chief Supt Govo said they had since deployed teams at various hot spots in the national park.
“We are working in conjunction with Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and we are conducting 24- hour foot anti-poaching patrols near Pelandaba area in Tsholotsho which borders the national park,” he said.
Some of the tusks were kept at one of the camps where one of the suspects was detained. Chief Supt Govo said they were now in the process of covering spots with cyanide to avoid the death of more animals and birds such as vultures that were likely to feed on the carcasses of the elephants.
“We are covering all spots that have cyanide,” said Chief Supt Govo.