By Kenias Chivuzhe
ZIMBABWE is stepping up efforts to fight wildlife crimes through enhancing prosecution of cases among a number of strategies to combat poaching.
With wildlife crimes being a complex matter which require special skills to investigate, a local wildlife protection organisation, Speak Out for Animals, is conducting capacity building programmes for prosecutors and legal practitioners.
“We want to improve the quality, expediency and efficiency in prosecuting wildlife cases. We are also teaching wildlife law to the new prosecutors after realising that there is a gap as wildlife law is not taught as a module when doing law at most institutions. Lack of knowledge is a challenge when prosecuting wildlife cases. There have been shortcomings in drafting charges as some prosecutors were ignorant on preferred sections as there are more than 10 pieces of legislation that govern and regulate the use and possession of wildlife. When an accused person is convicted, the prosecutor is supposed to aggravate and bring to the fore the seriousness of the case or the value of animals. This is something that has not been done because of lack of knowledge on the value of the animal,” said Advovate Everlasting Chinoda-Speak Out for Animals Executive Director.
Prosecutors who took part in the training programme that ended this Saturday said it was an eye opener as there is a growing need to protect endangered species.
“The prosecution of wildlife issues has been limited due to the lack of knowledge on the evidence required. This training is very key in improving prosecution as the law is very broad. Section 97 of the Parks and Wildlife Act states that if someone is found with a trophy in his vehicle, the presumption is that every one in that vehicle knows about the case and should be answerable,” explained Nyasha Mukunora-Public Prosecutor.
Poaching remains a major challenge in Zimbabwe and is threatening the extinction of several endangered animal species such as pangolins.
According to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks), 322 elephants were killed by poachers between 2016 and 2019, with the figure declining significantly to 20 a year later, in what Zimparks Spokesperson,Tinashe Farawo attributed an introduction of high technology anti-poaching surveillance methods to counter the challenge.