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Wildlife Watch

Mining Director Busted for Elephant Poisonings

In this week’s crime blotter, getting to the bottom of gruesome elephant killings in Zimbabwe. 

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Elephants cross the road in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, where more than 300 elephants were poisoned between 2013 and 2014. 


The managing director of a Zimbabwe mining company, Godfrey Nyakudya, has been fingered as the kingpin behind elephant killings with cyanide during the past three years.  

More than 300 animals died this way for their ivory in Hwange National Park between 2013 and 2014, and 100 more across the country last year. The effects of cyanide on elephants that drink water or eat food laced with it are horrific.

“But who’s using it? And where does it come from?” asked Oscar Nkala in a report here last year.

Dilute sodium cyanide solution is used to dissolve and separate gold or silver from ore.

According to the special investigations unit of Nehanda Radio, based in Bulawayo, the home of Nyakudya’s mining company, Nyakudya is wanted in connection with “the manner in which he dealt with cyanide that was used during the chemical poaching in Zimbabwe since 2013.” Nyakudya is alleged to have imported cyanide from South Africa without proper documents.

The radio station said that an employee of Nyakudya’s company did not have a permit to handle and transport cyanide. The employee, who wishes to remain unnamed for fear of his life, said that each time a cyanide consignment was delivered, it was offloaded at night. Another employee, also anonymous, said that no paperwork existed showing how and where the chemical was going.

The source claimed that four tons was sold to How Gold Mine, near Bulawayo, but he said, “To my surprise, my friends who were truck drivers told me some cyanide was transported to Hwange.” The only mining done in the Hwange area is for coal, which doesn’t use cyanide.

Nyakudya is being held in jail in Bulawayo, awaiting an appearance in court next week.

Some other wildlife crime busts and convictions around the world this past week:

PIG-NOSED TURTLE SEIZURE: Authorities at Soekarno Hatta International Airport, in Jakarta, Indonesia, confiscated nearly 8,000 freshwater turtles headed for Hong Kong, reports TRAFFIC, an organization that monitors wildlife trade. The majority of the animals—3,737—were pig-nosed turtles, which are classified as “vulnerable” and found in Australia and New Guinea.

SEA URCHIN POACHING: Police in Javea, a coastal town in Spain, caught two people poaching sea urchins, according to Euro Weekly, and confiscated 321. Only “traditional methods of fishing for the delicacy,” are permitted in Spain, the publication notes. It’s illegal to dive for sea urchins in Spain, and catches are limited to 24 per person.

TURTLE SMUGGLING: A man arrested earlier this month for illegally importing 38 turtles into Canada has been fined $3,500 and placed on probation for two years, says CTV News. He had carried the turtles in plastic bags strapped to his legs.

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