Changing Planet

Mass Poisonings Devastate African Wildlife, Incite “Urgent Measures”

The recent mass poisoning of vultures has prompted the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism to propose urgent legislation that would ban over-the-counter sales of poisons and pesticides. (Read more: Elephant Poachers Poison Hundreds of Vultures to Evade Authorities)

Further investigations have revealed that over 1,000 vultures may have perished in this single incident.  While this action on the part of the Namibian government is to be applauded, other poisoning incidents indicate the need for urgent continent-wide measures to combat the widespread use of poisons and pesticides to kill wildlife.

White-backed vulture dying from poisoning. Photo by S. Thomsett
White-backed vulture dying from poisoning. Photo by S. Thomsett

Just this month the poisoning of 87 elephants in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe made international headlines.  The authorities reported that the salt pans that the elephants rely on were laced with cyanide.  The latest update indicates that six men have been arrested with a cache of tusks.

Sadly these are not isolated incidents.

Toxic pesticides (e.g. carbofuran, strychnine) are often used to kill any animal deemed a nuisance.  Nuisance animals include lions, hyenas, eagles, crocodiles, dogs, and even squirrels.  The illegal poisoning of wildlife is certainly not endemic to Africa- it happens almost everywhere.  But it’s the scale of the poisoning, which as one of my colleagues recently noted is ‘a holocaust on the entire animal Kingdom’.

The poisoning is not limited to killing nuisance animals and poaching elephants for ivory.  It is used to procure food such as fish and birds.  It is believed if these are properly roasted there are no ill effects on human health.

Poisoned Open-billed storks being collected for sale. Photo by M. Odino
Poisoned Open-billed storks being collected for sale. Photo by M. Odino

The reality in Africa is that there are many people who have far greater concerns than for wildlife and for conservation to succeed we must understand the needs of people.  But wildlife poisoning cannot be one of the solutions.

Let the actions of the Namibian government speak loudly and be heard.  We need other African governments to urgently address the serious issue of wildlife poisoning as it is not only affects wildlife, but people, and the environments we all share.

NEXTElephant Poachers Poison Hundreds of Vultures to Evade Authorities

Darcy has worked for The Peregrine Fund’s Africa Program since 2010 and is based in central Kenya. Most of her current work focuses on the conservation of vultures and owls. She is particularly passionate about ending the scourge of wildlife poisoning and stopping the illegal trafficking of owl eggs for belief-based uses in East Africa. Prior to joining The Peregrine Fund she undertook a post-doctoral fellowship with the Smithsonian Institution based at Mpala Research Centre, Kenya. She has studied Mackinder’s Eagle Owls in central Kenya and conducted other research on birds and rodents. She volunteered for the Peace Corps in Niger in 1995 and got her start studying wildlife as a Bald Eagle Nestwatcher for New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation. She came to Kenya in 2000 where she has lived ever since. Before moving to Kenya she was an avid skier and ice hockey player, now she spends her free time swimming, birding, and hiking and exploring Africa’s mountains with her son. She’s actively involved in a host of local conservation issues as a member of Nature Kenya’s Bird Committee and the Kenya Wildlife Service Bird Taskforce.
  • Adam Silverstein

    The poachers are trying to support themselves in the most expeditious means at their disposal. That said, they are essentially without inherent value (6 peasants out of 7,000,000,000). The elephants, on the other hand, are a resource both for the natitive country and the world at large. Best to execute the offenders and hunt down their colleagues.

  • Linda Shadle

    When will people learn that KILLING IS NOT THE ANSWER? Greed doesn’t care WHAT innocent people and animals get in the way? When ALL wildlife has been destroyed who will they blame? This is SO SENSELESS!!!!!

  • Antoinette Amegbletor

    I felt so sorry learning what happens to wildlife here in Africa.
    Yes education on the need to view wildlife as essencial part of our ecosysterm is very important.
    When people are told something is bad and is not based on an informed dissition it is difficult to carry that through.
    I was baffled at the notion of these local people that poisoned animals when well cooked is safe for consumption! This ignorance of the effects of poison.
    Like the article concluded it is only when education is out there will sustainable management of wildlife be attainable.
    Is my hope this enlightenment comes to the people as soon as posible.
    Our wildlife certainly is in danger of extinction.!!!

  • Jacob John

    Is there any way for concerned individuals to publicly support or advocate on behalf of a ban, or for more controls of these pesticides? I have my doubts the UN has any influence, but at very least signatures should be collected, or NGO’s that can detect this type of abuse may deserve a small donation.

  • Ed Cannon

    If possible, the governments of these countries should find some sort of employment for these poachers & pay them enough wage to make them loyal & perhaps even work to deter the others that they know are doing this. Also pay the local population to turn in these poachers.

  • obambok yikwa

    I want to know happening in outer islands”””” ‘occurred geographical

  • Magistra Ygraine

    Killing certainly IS the answer! Killing the savages who kill the Elephants seems like a right sensible way to prevent them from doing this again. I am also sick of hearing the feeding themselves argument, or the cruel tyrannical government argument. Good people FIGHT to create a government they can abide. Remember: You cannot rehabilitate those who have never been habilitated.

  • Bells

    How sad. This won’t end. Ignorance, desperation, spite, poaching, hunger will always be a good reason in someones mind to do bad things. Jail time for repeat offenders is pointless, so maybe it is time to execute offenders. Some countries are in need of some type of good welfare system to help out those who kill animals for food. Free food kitchens twice a day and a homeless shelter for 1 or 2 nights a week to have a sleep and shower.
    Poachers should be shot on site, as there is no excuse for them.

  • Suzette Dibden

    First of all the Bible states that a good man looks after his animals, is that not what we were comissioned to do God gave man the ability to even name the animals, then why does man distort those priviledges and accountability? The same counts for our daily existance when everybody is so busy harping on one another instead of blessing and caring for fellow man and women alike. Nature is part of a beautifull intricate eco system, what would the effect be of this loss eventually, and apart of that the rotten vultures will be consumed by jackals and other insects alike spreading the scourge of poison like the DDT agriculture product years ago, it does not just go away with the dead animal.

  • El Gabilon

    There is nothing more henious than what these pouchers are doing…still are we not doing the same with our use of pesticides? In a forest environment it takes a long time for an inch of soil to accumulate on its floor. The use of pesticides rather than animal and plant waste on farms does not enrich the soil, rather it helps annoying species to develop immunity from the pesticides making it necessary to make more harmful ones…all of which filter into the soil, into ground water. We do not know the complete results of what happens to animals that roam through farm land, or even in cities where poisens are used to control “weeds” insects etc. The question is of course are we any better than those doing what they are doing? Even more important…what are we going to do about it

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