Tanzania: Water Melons Spell Death to Elephants

by Jun 23, 2012Conservation Threats, Elephants, Ivory, Wildlife News

Poachers no longer rely on guns

To people who rejoice with consuming healthy food, water melons are of high nutritional value. Likewise in the wild water melons and pumpkins are delicacies to some wild animals especially elephants. The problem now is that poachers are using both to lure and deplete elephants. A water melon laced with poison is capable of killing an elephant within minutes.

Recently four suspected poachers have been arrested by Ngorongoro Conservation Area rangers while allegedly plotting to kill elephants ssing poisoned pumpkins and water melons.

They were arrested two weeks ago at Mbulumbulu village in Karatu district, a short distance from the conservation area.

The acting conservator Mr. Shaddy Kyambile said the suspects had intended to use poisoned water melons and pumpkins to kill elephants.

He told reporters who were rushed there to witness the incident that the system may have been used by poachers in the area to eliminate some animals which are hunted down for their valuable trophies.

All the four suspects are residents of Karatu district which borders NCA. They were been arraigned in court at Loliondo, the Ngorongoro district headquarters.

According to Mr. Kyambile, it takes only a short moment for a poisoned elephant to die after eating the pumpkins or water melons laced with chemicals.

Elephants in Ngorongoro and elsewhere in the country are hunted down for their ivory which is smuggled out of the country to the Asian markets where the demand is high.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) acting boss said the suspected criminals were arrested by game rangers on patrol and that they had expected to ‘trap’ them while drinking water at Sahata river.

This is the third incident involving suspected poachers using poison to kill animals. In April this year, four suspects were apprehended at Mang’ola village with the pumpkins and water melons laced with poison.

Another NCAA official Mr. Amiyo T. Amiyo said an elephant collapsed and died at the gate of the conservation area late last month. It is suspected to have consumed a poisoned food.

Recently 14 elephants were found dead near Lake Manyara National Park and were suspected to have been poisoned.

“Elephant poaching has just entered a deadly phase; in the past it was easy for the rangers to hunt down poachers who were armed with guns but the new idea of using poison can be very tricky to contain,” said the NCAA communications Manager Mr Adam Akyoo.

The poison which according to the report with reference Number 242/5394 from the Government’s Chief Chemist Ms Bertha Mamuya, has been described to be the infamous ‘Aldicarb’ that is traded as ‘Temik’ and which belongs to the ‘Carbamates’ group of pesticides.

Aldicarb according to the Chief Chemist’s report has been listed by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) among the chemicals whose usage is highly restricted and even banned in some countries.

Aldicarb may be freely sold in Tanzania or precisely in the North because the first chemical batch was traced to a retailer in Babati-Manyara while the second was discovered to have originated from a shop at Usa-River in Meru District.

After the recent poisoning of five jumbos, the number of Elephants that have been killed this year has reached 12. Seven such large mammals were reportedly in the Tarangire National Park, four in Manyara and one in Ngorongoro.

Elephants seem to be replacing rhinos as the next endangered wildlife species. In Tarangire alone, where a special ‘elephant project’ is being executed under the Wildlife Conservation Society (WSC) records an average of 9 Jumbos getting killed every year.

In 2009 when the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute conducted an animal census in Tarangire, a total of 2500 elephants were counted. On the same year, ten such Jumbos were shot down, five killed inside the Park and five others outside its boundaries.

The following year 14 carcasses of shot elephants were recorded. The illegal hunters had somehow managed to kill eight of the large mammals, right inside the park and six others were shot outside the reserve.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, through the Assistant Director of WCS program in Tanzania, Dr Charles Foley, donated two Ford Ranger pickup trucks to the Tanzania National Parks to assist in the Anti-Poaching efforts at both Tarangire and Mount Kilimanjaro National Parks.

Tanzania with a count of 110,000 elephants is second after Botswana (which has 123,000), for having the largest number of Jumbos in Africa but the new poisoning trend is currently threatening the number of these large mammals in the country.