Unfortunately, such broadly applied poison can easily lead to wildlife fatalities beyond its intended targets.
“What they were doing is very cruel because it does not end with the death of the elephants. We have what we call the fourth generation effect due to the potency of cyanide as a poison. Animals that feed on the dead elephants will die and those that feed on the dead animals will also die," Muzzah tells The Chronicle.
"It will go back on the food chain and hundreds of animals may end up dead.”
Last May, another poaching racket was found to have employed a similar method of poisoning elephants' drinking water and collecting the tusks from their corpses; the five-member group was sentenced to two years in prison for the crime.
Since then, says Muzzah, 69 elephants have been killed in this region of Zimbabwe. Despite conservation efforts meant to protect the species, elephants across Africa have been in steady decline due to poaching, fueled largely by the illegal ivory trade. At current rates, elephants are projected to be extinct in the wild in little over a decade -- though if mass poisonings become the prefered method among poachers, extinction could occur even sooner.
Poachers poison watering holes with cyanide, killing 41 African elephants : TreeHugger