Five Zimbabweans jailed for poisoning elephants

An armed ranger examines a decomposing elephant carcass inside Hwange National Park, about 840 km (521 miles) outside Harare, October 28, 2013. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

HARARE (Reuters) - A Zimbabwean court sentenced five men to between four and 14 years in prison on Tuesday for poisoning water holes in a private game reserve with cyanide in order to kill elephants and poach their tusks, an official said. National parks rangers estimate that at least 300 elephants have been poisoned in the southern African country since July, prompting the government to call for the toughest possible sentences against poachers. A prosecutor in the northwest district of Hwange told Reuters the five men had been sentenced to four years each for lacing water holes with cyanide in Ngamo Safaris, a popular tourist destination. Two of the group had then been handed 10-year sentences for being found with 17 elephant tusks. Zimbabwe is home to some of Africa's largest herds, with half of its estimated 80,000 elephants thought to be in Hwange.