Save The Elephants News Service 

Forestry official implicated in cyanide killings released  (Zimbabwe)
Whinsley Masara, The Chronicle
August 30, 2017

A Forestry Commission officer who was arrested for poaching while his three
other accomplices fled after they were found in possession of ivory, has
been released under unclear circumstances. Acting on a tip-off, a police
anti-poaching team pounced on the suspects at their homesteads in Dete and
found them with an unstated number of tusks.

The suspect, Josphat Nkomo (34), was arrested last Wednesday at around 10PM
at Dinde while his brother, Elmon Nkomo and two Zambians are still at
large. Although Nkomo allegedly confessed that he was involved in the
poisoning of elephants after being caught with the tusks, The Chronicle has
established he is roaming free.

A police source said: ?Nkomo was released because there is no evidence
linking him to poaching.? Matabeleland North police spokesperson Inspector
Siphiwe Makonese has not been reachable for comment.

Forestry Commission spokesperson Ms Violet Makoto confirmed the arrest of
the suspected poacher. ?One of our officers, Mr Nkomo admitted to being
involved in a number of elephant poaching incidents in areas around Dete
and Hwange National Park. He stated that together with his brother and the
Zambians, they were involved in cyanide poisoning cases in forestry areas
and are the ones who poisoned the elephants which died two weeks ago in the
Ivory Lodge concession,? she said.

Ms Makoto said Nkomo, together with his brother who is a former Forestry
Commission employee, had provided temporary accommodation at their
homesteads for their two foreign accomplices.

?Forestry Commission is aware of the arrest that was made by police in
Hwange and our position is very clear that we do not condone poaching
activities and especially so when one of our employees is implicated. We
have been following with interest to see how the case is being handled and
we are available to assist police with investigations that we hope will
lead to the arrest and prosecution of the trio that escaped. We want the
law to take its course and justice to prevail,? she said. ?We also want the
public to note that the bad apples within Forestry Commission are in no way
a reaction of how Forestry Commission operates. We are a law-abiding
institution with the responsibility to protect forest resources on behalf
of Zimbabwe and any association with poachers and poaching activities by
one of our own is inexcusable?.

Ms Makoto said the Forest Protection Unit guards together with the
anti-poaching team would continue to intensify patrols in the Forestry and
National Parks area to curb poaching incidents. Two weeks ago, seven
dehorned elephant carcasses were discovered in Sikumi Forestry area in
Dete. It was alleged that all the seven had died due to cyanide poisoning
which had occurred at different times.

Two of the elephants were killed this month, while five others are alleged
to have been killed about a year ago, only for the carcasses to be
discovered following the latest poisoning.

The poisoning of elephants with cyanide was first reported in 2013 and more
than 300 jumbos died in the Hwange National Park, sparking nationwide
outrage. Matabeleland North police have embarked on an operation called
?Nhaka Yedu/Ilifa Lethu? targeting poachers.

They have set roadblocks with a team comprising Campfire officials who will
search vehicles for any weapons and game meat or anything suspected to be
connected to poaching activity.

Other anti-poaching teams will search trains while others patrol the
National Park and the Forestry areas. In June, a total of 10 elephants died
due to cyanide poisoning at Hwange National Park. Early this year, a
suspected Zambian poacher was shot dead while another one was injured in
Sibomvu area in the Pandamasule Forest in Matabeleland North Province.

This news service is provided by Save the Elephants.

For further information on elephants please see Save the Elephants’ web site