Zimbabwe elephants poisoned in cyanide attack

At least 80 elephants have been killed for their ivory tusks by poachers

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The Independent Online

At least 81 elephants have been killed by poachers for their ivory tusks in cyanide attacks across a vast western national park.

The industrial cyanide has been used to poison a remote water hole in Zimbabwe's largest game park, also killing smaller animals and the predators feeding on them.

Nine poachers have now been arrested after being tracked to a cache of hidden ivory in the park.

Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, in Harare Tuesday after touring Hwange National Park, said more elephant carcasses had been found after more than 40 were discovered earlier in the month.

Zimbabwe's newly-appointed environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere has vowed harsher jail penalties for poacher, according to state media.

The number of elephants being killed for their tusks has seen a steady increase in recent years.

A family of 11 elephants were killed in January this year by poachers in Kenya's Tsavo East National Park.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare reported the slaughter of 400 elephants between January and March 2012 at the Bouba Ndjida National Park in Cameroon, leading to animal rights groups warning that poaching levels could be worse than in the 1980s.

Additional reporting by AP