Government backs new wildlife-crime tool kit

THE prosecution and adjudication of wildlife crime in Zimbabwe on Tuesday received a major face lift with the launch of the Zimbabwe Rapid Reference Guide (RRG) on Wildlife Crime.

The guide formulated by Speak out for Animals (SOFA) in collaboration with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, National Prosecuting Authority of Zimbabwe, Space for Giants and the Zimbabwe Republic Police is expected to help the southern African nation combat wildlife crime.

Zimbabwe is within the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza) — one of Africa’s last great habitats which has in the last decade attracted both commercial and subsistence poachers igniting a need for mechanisms to protect the flora and fauna therein.

Speaking at the launch of the toolkit at Matopos National Park on Tuesday Justice ministry Principle Legal officer Rangarirai Chikwene said the guide comes at an opportune time when the country is fighting the ever growing illicit trade in rampant wildlife poaching.

“The toolkit will advance the protection of animals…equipping not only prosecutors but the legal fraternity as a whole with refined understanding in wildlife crimes,” she said.

Environment ministry permanent secretary Munesushe Munodawafa said the toolkit will enhance government’s anti-poaching initiatives and “is an invaluable tool in safeguarding Zimbabwe’s natural resources”.

“This initiative to us is very important, that’s why we said we would be part of this event. And we hope and pray that you (SOFA) will continue on this road.  I want to thank the collective minds that have formulated this toolkit that will advance the protection of animals,” Munodawafa said.

Munodawafa added that much of Zimbabwe’s tourism is wildlife based and it was imperative that the country protects its wildlife for which it boasts of a comparative tourist advantage.

Founder and executive director of Sofa Eva Chinoda said the successful prosecution of those who are apprehended is essential to ensuring that the criminal justice system within Zimbabwe can act as a deterrent to those contemplating commission of such a crime.

“The guide has been created to assist investigators and prosecutors to identify what is required to build an evidential case against an accused,” Chinoda said.

“As the bible is to the preacher, as the gun is to the soldier so the RRG will be to the hands of the investigator and the prosecutor,” she added.

Speaking at the same event, acting Prosecutor General Nelson Mutsonziwa implored the southern region to have uniformity in laws.

“We have an issue in which our neighbours have lenient sentences.  So poachers come into Zimbabwe and escape into neighbouring countries. As Sadc if we can have uniform countries it will reduce wildlife crime,” he said.

“If the law is not strong enough, the wave of poaching will move to our region so this tool kit comes at a very timely time.”