Poachers poison elephant watering hole with cyanide in Zimbabwe (Reuters)

Poachers in Zimbabwe have killed 41 elephants by poisoning their water pool with cyanide.

Police arrested a poaching syndicate of six men. Four were accused of poisoning the animals in Hwange National Park, reports the Chronicle.

Authorities found 17 tusks with an estimated value of $120,000 (£76,700). The gang is believed to have used salt laced with cyanide to poison pools visited by elephants.

Chief Insp Muyambirwa Muzzah said park rangers reported gunshots to police.

"They went with the police to investigate and found two elephants that had been killed and dehorned," he said.

"On further investigation, inside the game park, they found rotting carcasses of dehorned elephants. There were tracks, made by three people near the animals and they followed those to [one of the poacher's] homestead."

Muzzah said one of the poachers led police to the 17 tusks so police could ambush the rest of the syndicate.

Hundreds of animals threatened

He said they expect to find more dead elephants in the park. Other animals were at risk because they might eat the poisoned carcasses.

"What they were doing is very cruel because it does not end with the death of the elephants," he said. "We have what we call the fourth-generation effect due to the potency of cyanide as a poison.

"Animals that feed on the dead elephants will die and those that feed on the dead animals will also die.

"It will go back into the food chain and hundreds of animals may end up dead."

Earlier in 2013, another poaching syndicate was arrested for killing elephants using the same method of cyanide poisoning. They were each sentenced to two years in prison.

Muzzah said 69 elephants have been killed in Hwange between May and August this year.