ZCTF: "More than 300 elephants poisoned"

The task force says eyewitnesses who flew over the area reported at least 300 elephant carcasses.

African Elephant.

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Conservationists in Zimbabwe say the death toll of elephants killed from cyanide poisoning in Hwange National Park may be much higher than the authorities are letting on.

Johnny Rodrigues of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) says independent eyewitnesses who flew over the area reported sightings of at least 300 elephant carcasses.

ZCTF Chairman Johnny Rodrigues claims a hunter and a pilot who flew over Hwange National Park in July counted as many as 300 dead elephants.

That figure has not been confirmed but it is much higher than the official toll of just over 100 elephants poisoned by cyanide that was mixed with salt and spread near watering holes.

Rodrigues claims some of the carcasses were buried in an initial clean-up operation.

He says that organisations like his are being barred from carrying out independent surveys in Hwange to assess the real toll on the park's wildlife.

President Robert Mugabe's cabinet has vowed to act tough on the carnage but the private Standard Newspaper claims top government officials may be involved.