Zimbabwe moots special Court for Wildlife

Magistrates role critical in curbing poaching – Justice Mawadze
Mirror Reporter
Masvingo –
Zimbabwe may soon have a special Wildlife Court that will deal expeditiously with crimes to do with animals and the environment, a workshop of 20 magistrates drawn from the southern region heard yesterday.
The court is among a number of proposals that Speak Out For Animals, a local Non-Governmental Organisation has informally made to Government in a bid to ensure better protection for wildlife particularly against poaching and other crimes.
The Wildlife Court is one of the key institutions that the country will use to defend its wildlife, said Speak Out director and founder, Vimbai Chinoda.
The Senior Judge at the High Court in Masvingo, Justice Mawadze officially opened the workshop and urged magistrates not to trivilialise wildlife crimes because their role in protecting animals is critical.
Speak Out was founded in 2017 and it has since signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) which allows it to carry out training programmes, to capacitate prosecutors and magistrates and to monitor wildlife cases in the courts.
The organization started training programmes for law enforcement agents involved with the protection of wildlife in 2020 and so far 20 wildlife investigative officers and 60 prosecutors have been trained. The first batch of magistrates is being trained at the Ancient City and a total of 80 magistrates will be trained by the end of this year.
The three-day workshop which is running at the Ancient City Lodge near Great Zimbabwe Monuments from March 19 to 21 was also told that wildlife crime is the fourth most lucrative form of organized crime in the world estimated to be worth US$23 billion a year and this therefore made the threat to wildlife particularly through poaching more disturbing.
The training programmes seek to sensitise magistrates on the crucial role they play in defense of wildlife. At the end of the workshop they should appreciate the intrinsic and extrinsic values of wildlife; their commercial, scientific, aesthetic, cultural, social and ecological importance.
Regional Magistrate Judith Zuyu and Provincial Magistrate Aeneas Magate are also attending the workshop.
Justice Mawadze said the workshop’s purpose was to emphasise the adjudication of wildlife crimes and help to strengthen this critical link in the protection of wildlife.
The knowledge obtained by magistrates from such a training programme will ensure that criminals were less likely to escape prosecution and evade punishment, said Justice Mawadze.
He urged magistrates to send a strong message by applying the full weight of the law against wildlife criminals. The workshop must allow the country to see a turnaround in this area of access to justice, said Justice Mawadze.
“Wildlife crime is the fourth most lucrative form of organized crime in the world and is estimated to be worth $23 billion a year. Arming magistrates with the tools to combat this crime will go a long way in help conserve wildlife,” said Justice Mawadze.https://masvingomirror.com

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