This week I was in Hwange and had the privilege to attend a Legal Awareness Training on Wildlife Laws hosted by Painted Dogs and facilitated by Advocate Ever Vimbai Chinoda and counsels Shepherd Kudzanayi Makonde and Tapiwanashe Zvidzayi. The training was intended to serve as an entry point for organizations and individuals to better understand the complexity of the legal issue of wild life offences.
According to the Parks and Wildlife Act, Wildlife refers to any kind of vertebrate animal and eggs and their young thereof, whether alive or dead other than domestic animals and fish because they have been left out in the definition. One then begins to wonder why the definition excludes fish as wildlife. Wild life value is classified as social, ecological, economic, scientific and aesthetic to mention a few and therefore laws that are in the best interests of animals must be put in place.
Wild animals are faced with many threats including distraction of habitats, poachers, cyanide poison, drought, over exploitation, diseases and pollution. The statutory value for hunting or trapping a cheetah is 20 thousand dollars, an Elephant is 50 thousand dollars and a Lion is 20 thousand dollars. Therefore, when a poacher kills an animal, this is how much money we will have lost as a nation and this is why its important for magistrates to order compensation.
As I listened in the discussions I realized that it was all about understanding the dynamics of the area and the animals in order to minimize human-wildlife conflict. In places like Hwange wild animals and people co-habitat. Whether or not people settle on land that has been designated to animals, human–wildlife conflict more often than not arises. Many have argued that appreciation of wildlife has nothing to do with whether one is black or white but has to do with exposure.
Local communities around wildlife areas also occasionally have property destroyed by animals. Who should compensate? Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority manages wildlife on behalf of the state thus creating revenue from tourism, conservation, hunting fees, lease agreements, to mention a few. Due to this I think that they should take ownership and responsibility of community protection and fix the damage done by the animals. I believe that they should sow in as much as they reap by educating and equipping communities on how to amicably reduce human-wildlife conflict.
There is also need for the necessary authorities to come up with initiatives that help protect our wildlife from extinction. The government should start to consider a compensation plan or fund for victims of human and wildlife conflict. If this is not quickly put into place they will continuously breed bitter victims who will continue to take the law into their own hands by doing retaliation killings.
One way i think can help reduce human-wildlife conflict is to develop and disseminate literature which is related to wildlife conservation at a comprehensive scale. This will usher in a new consciousness of the value of our animals, not only for ecological balance but also for the benefit which surrounding communities may derive thereof. Why not introduce Wildlife Law as a module in our local Universities?