Tony Maphosa, who was wanted by authorities in Zimbabwe since 2013, has been arrested for allegedly poisoning the water supply of more than 100 elephants. He was arrested last Wednesday in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe after authorities received a tip.
A team of rangers from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority apprehended their suspect and confiscated two pieces of ivory from him upon arrest.
“A man from Tsholotso was arrested on Wednesday with two elephant tusks,” Zimparks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said in a statement confirming the arrest of Maphosa. Authorities are on the lookout for accomplices after two more elephants were poisoned using cyanide on Monday.
Last month, 10 elephants were found poisoned using cyanide in the national park. The consequences of these poisonings extends well beyond the elephants. When water sources are poisoned, animals like zebras, antelope, lions, jackals, and even vultures are killed as well. These deaths are slow and agonizing. In Zimbabwe, cyanide can be easily purchased, making it easier to commit these crimes.
In every sense, Maphosa is lucky he was apprehended without violence. Rangers in Hwange National Park and other parks throughout the country have been given “clear shoot-to-kill” orders regarding poachers, according to Trevor Lane, co-founder of the Bhejane Trust.
“Poachers are lucky to be captured alive,” said Lane. Anyone caught with ivory or poison in the parks are given a minimum sentence of 9 years.
Even though sentencing is harsh and poaching comes at an enormous personal risk, economic forces will likely continue pushing animals like elephants toward extinction in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. As long as people are poor and tusks fetch a high price, poaching is here to stay.
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