#ShockWildlifeTruths: Kruger poison poaching claims elephant, lions, vultures and more

2016-03-02 10:30 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town - The Kruger National Park (KNP) on Wednesday, 2 March, shared details of a disastrous poison poaching incident which claimed an elephant, 110 critically endangered white backed vultures, two male lions and two black backed jackals.

The animals were "killed by wildlife poisoning on Saturday, 27 February 2016," SANParks says.

The elephant carcass was found with gun shots to its head, its tusks were removed and poison laced on it.

Scavengers in the vicinity of the elephant carcass were poisoned from feeding on the exposed areas of the carcass.

Poachers poison carcasses of their victims in a bid to buy time to escape. When rangers, or park officials spot vultures circling in the sky, they immediately know an animal has died and are able to follow up on the death. Killing the vultures delays this natural signal of death rangers can look out for, buying the criminals more time to make an escape. 

White backed vultures are a critically endangered species, with a 2013 study suggesting that if current levels of exploitation continue in South Africa, the species could become locally extinct by 2034 or sooner.

The survival of the bird rely heavily on adult birds reproducing. However, many adult birds fall victim to poisoning, leading to rapid population declines as younger birds have a much lower survival rate. 

"Wildlife poisoning is not only a threat to our biodiversity assets, but a single incident can affect hundreds of species; thus cutting their life short and diminishing their ecological role," Glenn Phillips for KNP says. 

“Poachers have resorted to wildlife poisoning in the National Parks and other protected areas in Southern Africa and we are devastated by these latest mortalities of our wildlife."

Last year, the Park experienced a similar incident where one elephant and four African lions suffered the same fate; with 46 vultures and 1 sub adult bateleur all dying from poisoning.

An incident of deliberate poisoning of black-backed jackal and other small predators in Addo Elephant National Park in 2014 resembled the same pattern of an attempt to kill wildlife by means of poisoning.

Phillips says to stop the problem, we need tough regulatory measures in "a joint operation with all relevant government security structures as well as our neighbouring counterparts - in particular those bordering the far northern part of the Park wherein there is a spate of elephant poaching."

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