ZAMSOC STEPS UP THE FIGHT AGAINST ILLEGAL WILDLIFE CRIME
The Zambezi Society has recently strengthened the funding aimed at tackling Illegal Wildlife Crime i.e. poachers of ivory, pangolin and other valuable wildlife resources. This is in addition to the assistance we provide to ZimParks in the Zambezi Valley areas with on-the-ground anti-poaching work.
We have built a strong collaboration with the International Anti-poaching Foundation through shared funding of resources, training courses and field operations. Both organisations jointly undertake numerous under-cover field operations and continue to share intelligence. This has improved the efficiency of intelligence gathering, response planning and execution.
A significant innovation is the introduction of our first collaborative training courses for under-cover Investigations Officers involved in the arrests of poachers. The Zambezi Society and IAPF recently brought in two undercover operations experts from outside Zimbabwe to assist in a training course for Investigations Officers from ZimParks and from the Police Minerals, Flora and Fauna Unit (MFFU).
The course was held over four days in May 2019, and involved instructors from the Central Intelligence Department (CID), Support Unit, SOFA (Speak out for Animals) as well as the two visiting experts. 30 participants and 9 instructors took part in what was a very successful exercise.
A similar, but more intensive training course for a select team of MFFU details is planned shortly. The aim is to have a “crack” team that can be called on at short notice to carry out undercover “sting” operations.
BETTER COURT OUTCOMES
Ensuring that wildlife poachers are successfully arrested, brought to court, correctly charged and sentenced is painstaking and challenging work. Increased funding, collaboration and training is the key to strengthen court outcomes and ensure that “loopholes” in the system which, in the past have tended to be exploited, are removed. Once arrests are made, The Zambezi Society’s work is largely focused on elephant poaching cases. Cases of the illegal possession of pangolin are handed over to the Tikki Hywood Foundation from the time of arrest.
Here’s what has been achieved in 2019 to date::-
3 out of 13 cases of ivory poaching brought forward to the courts in 2018 have been successfully concluded. 3 three individuals received the full 9 years jail sentence and one was acquitted. The remaining ivory cases are still pending with warrants of arrest issued for 5 individuals who absconded after being granted bail.
3 of the 4 pangolin cases brought forward in 2018 have been successfully concluded with 4 individuals getting 9 years each. One pangolin case is outstanding from 2018 with all four accused having absconded after being granted bail.
One case involving cyanide brought forward from 2018 has been successfully concluded with one case outstanding as the 3 suspects have not been located and are yet to appear in court.
Altogether in 2019 to date there have been 34 individuals arrested. One ivory case going back to 2016 appeared to have gone cold, but the accused was apprehended in May and is now serving a 9 year sentence. There have been 3 ivory poaching cases involving 7 individuals with 2 getting the full 9 years. One was acquitted and 4 suspects are involved in pending cases.
There have been 3 pangolin cases in 2019 involving 5 individuals. Of the 5, 2 have been sentenced to 5 years, one acquitted and 2 accused in one pending case.
There have been two cyanide cases involving 4 individuals and over 30kgs of cyanide. One individual has been sentenced to 3 years(one suspended) with the 3 suspects in the large volume case still pending.