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Cyanide, Elephants and Waterholes – Neutralizing the Threat

There have been reports over the past several weeks that 66 elephants have been poisoned by cyanide in waterholes in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. This also means that every other animal that has taken a drink at these waterholes has also died, as well as the vultures that devoured the poisoned carcasses.

cyanideCyanide is used around the world by the mining industry so it is readily available, in substantial quantities, in Southern Africa. Hydrogen cyanide was used in the Nazi extermination camps in World War II where it was known as Zyklon B. Cyanide is also found in the roots of the cassava plant which can cause poisoning without the proper preparation.  When cyanide comes in contact with water, hydrogen cyanide is created.

There are no precise dosage numbers for the amount of cyanide needed to kill an elephant. An article posted in Toledo Weekly Blade on December 1, 1910 reported that it took “500 grains” of cyanide to put down, Gypsy Queen, a circus elephant who had killed her trainer.

Clearly, based on the dosages needed to kill a human, we are looking at just hundreds of parts per million/kilogram, a minute amount, to take down an elephant.

 

How then can a waterhole poisoned by cyanide be decontaminated ?

 

There are many chemicals, such as peroxides, hypochlorites or sulfur dioxide, that can neutralize cyanide. However, the addition of more chemicals to a waterhole may have deleterious and unintended consequences as well as being costly and difficult to administer.

The Chemistry Department at the University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences has an idea which is faster, better and cheaper than a chemically based decontamination solution.

 

Simply stated, put a pump in the waterhole and spray the pond water into the air on a sunny day.

 

The ultraviolet radiation (UV) in sunlight will help to accelerate the volitization of the hydrogen cyanide by breaking down strong iron cyanide compounds. This will serve to remove cyanide ions from the water.

All that is needed is a water pump, a power source –solar panels or a diesel engine, and a spray fountainhead.  For a few hundreds of dollars, we can take immediate steps to start cleaning up these watery death traps.

At the same time, African governments and industries that use cyanide must take steps to control the access and distribution of this deadly poison. There is absolutely no reason that cyanide should be a poison of choice in Zimbabwe or in any other nation on the Continent.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 10.38.50 AMDr. Thomas Snitch is Chairman of the Board of Visitors at the University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences and is a Visiting Professor at the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. His research is focused on using science and math to combat conservation crimes.

 

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Original article by Dr. Thomas Snitch

Have-a-go heroes: the women saving elephants in their free time

With one elephant killed every 25 minutes, the poaching crisis continues. But with the commitment and activism of a growing global network – dominated by women – laws and attitudes around the world are changing

If dedication and hard work were all it took, Maria Mossman would have saved every last elephant by now. Despite having two children, aged five and seven, and a part-time job for a large corporation, she also spends 35 to 40 hours a week as an unpaid activist. It was even more time when the children were younger. “I used to come home from work at about 4pm and then sit on my computer, networking with other groups and activists until two o’clock in the morning,” she recalls.

Mossman, 41, got heavily involved in elephant activism in 2013. As well as founding Action for Elephants UK (AFEUK), she’s one of the key organisers of the global elephant and rhino marches. “It’s really hard work,” she says. “Really stressful. Just before the marches you say: ‘We’re not going to do this again.’ And as soon as one is over you start planning the next one.”

Related: Elephants on the path to extinction – the facts

Related: ‘If we stopped poaching tomorrow, elephants would still be in big trouble’

The poaching lit a fire in me. The barbarism of the act was so horrifying

Related: Why the Guardian is spending a year reporting on the plight of elephants

Campaigners have also been targeting other materials from endangered species – rhino horn, tortoiseshell and leopard fur

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One ton of elephant ivory to be destroyed in Central Park

Publication Date: 
Jul 12 2017

WHAT:      The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will destroy more than one ton of illegal ivory confiscated through state enforcement efforts.

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Innovative ivory fingerprinting kit arrives in France

Jul 10 2017

Two of IFAW’s new ivory fingerprinting printing kits, which were developed in the UK by the Metropolitan Police and King’s College, have just been presented to top law enforcement agencies in France working to stop environmental and wildlife crime. 

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Namibia: U.S.$740 Reward for Reporting Poaching

[Namibian] Anti-poaching organisation ‘Help our Rhinos NOW Namibia’ (HoRN.NAM) has called on the public in the Kunene region and across the country to report wildlife crimes.

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Uganda: Residents Reject UWA Proposal to Turn Area Into Game Reserve

[Monitor] Agago -Following several years of destruction of crops in Kaket Parish in Lapono Sub-county, Agago District, by elephants straying from Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials now want the area be turned into a community game reserve.

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Boris Johnson backs ‘all-out ban’ on ivory sales

Foreign secretary confirms government’s pledge, despite absence from manifesto

A total ban on ivory sales in the UK could still be introduced by the British government, foreign secretary Boris Johnson has said, signalling a possible U-turn that has been welcomed by conservationists.

In their 2015 manifesto the Conservatives promised to “press for a total ban on ivory sales”. But the pledge was quietly taken out of this year’s Tory manifesto, sparking anger among conservation organisations, which say that by allowing the trade to continue, the UK is fuelling elephant poaching.

Related: Hong Kong authorities seize ‘record’ ivory haul

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Cameroon: ‘Maalle’ – Wanted for Elephant Poaching!

[Cameroon Tribune] The educative film by Ashu Egbe focuses on societal ills and their impact on the community.

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Elephant calf reunited with wild herd in India

Jul 10 2017

A calf that had been found with no discernible congenital deformity or serious injury had been separated from its herd and reunited with the help of the IFAW-WTI Mobile Veterinary Service.A displaced female elephant calf was rescued near the A displac

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South Africa: Two Suspected Rhino Poachers Killed in Shootout

[News24Wire] Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife field rangers shot and killed two suspected rhino poachers after a gunfight at the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game park in the early hours of Sunday morning.

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South Africa: KZN Police Arrest Three Suspected Rhino Poachers

[News24Wire] Three suspected rhino poachers will appear in the Hluhluwe Magistrate’s Court on Monday, after being caught by police carrying a high calibre hunting rifle, a silencer, ammunition and an axe.

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South Africa: Serial Rhino Poaching Brothers Back in Court

[News24Wire] Two brothers accused of rhino poaching, Deon and Niklaas van Deventer, and Onward Muchangowa – a Zimbabwean national – are expected back in the Makhado Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

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Largest online retailer in Japan bans ivory sales

Jul 7 2017

Rakuten, the largest online retailer in Japan, has banned ivory sales on its platform.

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