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.
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.
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.