As if habitat loss and relentless ivory poaching were not enough to destroy Africa's surviving elephants, the adverse effect of government corruption highlighted by Zimbabwe when a mining director was busted for being behind the cyanide poisoning of 300 elephants between 2013 and 2014 in Hwange National Park. Death by cyanide is horrifically gruesome and painful way for an elephant to meet an unnatural end. Godfrey Nayakudya was charged with responsibility responsible for the poisonings. Dilute sodium cyanide is used in mining operations to separate gold from ore. Four tons of undocumented cyanide was imported from south Africa to How Gold Mine near Bulawayo according to an employee informant. The chemical was shipped at night across the border without proper documentation. Some of it was diverted to Hwange where the only mining activity is for coal which does not require the chemical.
In a related development, a US antiques dealer pled guilty to importing elephant tusks from Canada in violation of the Lacy Act. Ferdinand Krizan faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The tusks he purchased from Canadian auction house, IEGOR Hotel, are worth about $141,000. The Canadian firm was under investigation by Canadian authorities when Krizan's name surfaced in purchase records. Krizan once held a permit to trade in ivory--now illegal in the state of New York--but it was expired. He admitted in court documents he knew his transaction and transportation of the tusks into the US was illegal. Krizan awaits sentencing. It is illegal trading like this- much of it in the United States, that fuels the demand for ivory and kills 30,000 or more elephants a year.