At least 40 birds including knob-billed ducks, red-billed teaks and Egyptian geese have died in the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls after ingesting suspected poisoned wheat from the Zambian side of the river.
According to Zimbabwean rhino and elephant conservationist Trevor Lane of the Victoria Falls-based Bhejane Trust, the first victims of the poisoning were ducks that were found in the Zambezi National Park.
“While checking on the Chamabonda yesterday (Friday) evening, I came across a very tragic situation. There were 12 dead knob-billed ducks and one paralysed at No. 1 water-point. I took them to Chris Foggin of the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, who said he thought they had been poisoned as their crops were full of grain seeds.
“He managed to save the paralysed duck. At dawn on Saturday I went to check on the other waterholes and found a further 23 knob-billed ducks and 2 red-billed teal floating in Timots Pan, with one paralysed knobbie. We took these back to Chris and he again managed to save the paralysed duck. These two have since been released back into the wild,” Lane said.
Following the deaths, teams from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (PWMA) checked through the pans, but found no sign of poisoned grain. On Sunday, Lane said dozens of Egyptian Geese were dying on several islands on the Zambezi between Zambia and Zimbabwe amid indications that the poisoning could be related to poaching.
“Following the poisoning of wild fowl in the Chamabonda, there is a report today of a lot of Egyptian Geese dying on the islands in the Zambezi River from eating poisoned grain. It now appears the poisoning of the wild fowl is coming from Zambia as the birds all have wheat seeds in their crops.
“It is not known whether the poisoning is from farmers growing wheat on the banks of the Zambezi, or from deliberate poaching, as Zambians in makoro were seen picking up some dead and paralysed geese. Either way, it is doubtful if anything can or will be done about it,” Lane said.
Previously, Bhejane Trust accused the Zambian police of doing very little in way of co-operation in cross-border crime operations. The group has previously highlighted many cases where Zambian authorities failed to help their Zimbabwean counterparts with hot-pursuit operations intended to curb cross-border crimes, especially elephant poaching.