More than 80 elephants have been killed for their ivory by poachers who used cyanide to poison a water hole in Zimbabwe’s largest game park.
Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi confirmed the toll on Tuesday after touring Hwange National Park.
Wildlife department officials said the chemical also killed smaller animals and predators which feed on them.
Nine poachers were arrested after rangers tracked them to a cache of ivory hidden in the park.
“When we left Hwange National Park on Sunday, the total number of elephants that had died from cyanide poisoning was 81,” Jerry Gotora, a director of the Zimbabwe parks department, told AFP.
“Several other animals have also died, but we don’t have the total number yet.”
The elephant death toll includes more than 40 elephants discovered following a poisoning incident in the 4,650-sq km (5,660-square mile) national park earlier this month.
There has been a rise in the killing of elephants and rhinos in parts of Africa in recent years, mostly to feed demand for horns and tusks in Asia.