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Tue Jun 28 20:39:04 CAT 2016

Kruger poison carnage

AFP | 03 March, 2016 00:43
Tusks and horns are smuggled to eastern Asian countries, where they are highly prized. File photo
Image by: SIPHIWE SIBEKO / REUTERS

Two lions and more than 100 vultures in the Kruger National Park died after eating the poisoned carcass of an elephant, officials said yesterday, suggesting a new poaching trend in the heavily guarded reserve.

"It seems poachers have resorted to wildlife poisoning in the national parks and other protected areas in Southern Africa," said Glenn Phillips, the park's managing executive.

The animals' carcasses were discovered by rangers at the weekend.

Initial investigations showed that the elephant had been shot in the head, its tusks removed and its carcass laced with poison. Two lions, 110 white-back vultures and two jackals then died after feeding on the poisoned carcass. The poisoning left authorities puzzled as to the poachers' ultimate target.

Tusks and horns are smuggled to eastern Asian countries, where they are highly prized.

Park spokesman William Mabasa said vultures were also in demand by sangomas.

Poisoning of wildlife has occurred at a lower level in South Africa compared to its neighbours Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

In Zimbabwe, more than 370 elephants have died after being poisoned over the past two years, with the deaths blamed on poachers.

Last year, an elephant, four lions and 46 vultures died from poisoning in the Kruger National Park.

The park, which is faced with a poaching crisis targeting rhino, is one of the most heavily protected in the country. Rangers are equipped with infra-red binoculars to try to catch poachers, who normally operate at night.

More than 1175 rhinos were poached across South Africa last year.

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