Illegal Wildlife Crime in Zimbabwe
The Tikki Hywood Trust has been working with the different departments of the Judiciary in Zimbabwe for the past three years, with what we believe to be very positive and successful outcomes using the law as a deterrent for illegal wildlife trade. Illegal wildlife trade is a rapidly growing industry, which we feel all Governments and Countries need to not only be aware of, but become more actively involved with in curbing the growing trends.
This illegal trade industry involves people from all echelons of life and is often a byproduct of an existing criminal activity; such as illicit cross-border criminal syndicates, money laundering, corruption and almost always involves the exploitation of local
poverty stricken communities.
Tikki Hywood Trust Process and Approach to the Legal aspects of Wildlife Crimes
- Understanding the judiciary system (Magistrates, Public Prosecutors and lawyers) and where the current challenges and weaknesses lie.
- From past experience we had been working with the Wildlife Authorities, their Investigation Units and Ministry of Environment and had achieved poor results with cases relating to illegal wildlife trade.
- The wildlife Authorities were equally becoming frustrated due to their efforts of arresting poachers/traffickers (the first step of enforcing the law) being negated by the criminals being let off with light or no sentences. The breakdown of the system seemed to occur when the cases were presented at court.
- The Tikki Hywood Trust then addressed the Wildlife Laws directly, since we assumed that the laws themselves were out dated (i.e. low fines) and this was the reason for the ineffectual results. To this end Tikki Hywood Trust lobbied for an amendment to our Specially Protected Species Schedule, which resulted in what we believe to be significant deterrents in terms of substantial fines. E.g. prior to the amendment, the fine for poaching an endangered species such as Rhino was negligible. Now that the amendment is in place, the fine for poaching a rhino is USD $120 000.00, 17 years in jail and bail is denied – a significantly more preventative concept to a would-be poacher.
- A further aspect which encouraged the Tikki Hywood Trust to address the legislation of fines for illegal wildlife trade was the fact that economically Zimbabwe had undertaken to use a number of first world currencies, whilst the fines were still valued in our own defunct currency and essentially worthless. Redressing this issue and now presenting the fines in a currency such as United States Dollar meant that there was now a recognizable value assigned to the natural resource that was being exploited.
- Even after these legal amendments were made, the case results were still less than satisfactory. This promoted further investigation and we discovered that even though Zimbabwe now had one of the strongest wildlife laws in Africa, the Judiciary were largely ignorant of this power and its proper implementation.
- To once again address this problem the Tikki Hywood Trust developed a handbook to assist and guide the Wildlife Authorities, Stakeholders, Judiciary and Police in the first hand assessing and docketing of the crime correctly, so that the appropriate wildlife law would be applied. Note that this handbook covers all wildlife and wildlife related crimes according to the Parks and Wildlife Act of Zimbabwe. Our budget allowed us to print 4000 handbooks.
- The Tikki Hywood Trust then approached the Magistrates directly, engaging with the Chief Magistrate to further discuss challenges and implementation strategies with respect to illegal wildlife crimes and trade. We then distributed 250 of our handbooks, ensuring that every magistrate within Zimbabwe received one.
- In December 2014 the Tikki Hywood Trust presented on illegal wildlife trade at a Magistrates Workshop. 110 magistrates attended this workshop and we believe our presentation was well received.
Expanding our Approach
- We plan to engage with the Public Prosecutors on a similar level that we had done with the magistrates.
- Develop a checklist handbook for arresting Officers and Public Prosecutors so that all documentation and relevant evidence is correctly submitted to court.
- Implementing training that would better equip Magistrates and State Prosecutors in the matter of wildlife related crimes.
- To facilitate workshops throughout the Provinces targeting prosecutorial procedure to discover further challenges and create solutions in the handling of wildlife related crimes.
- Develop in situ contacts amongst the law enforcement officers and judiciary with in the Provinces who may then aid the process through information dissemination. Promote the consideration of placing wildlife crimes in a category of serious offences. If wildlife crimes are placed in this category, the cases will require more senior judiciary to handle the case.
- Train a person who would be called a ‘watching-brief”, who would be able to work and follow each wildlife case in the hopes of being able to avoid any irregularities prior to them happening.