By Judith Ncube
BINGA district in Matabeleland North has dominated in criminal cases involving the poaching of endangered species in the first quarter of the year.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) spokesperson Tinashe Farawo yesterday said most of the cases brought to court involving the poaching of wild animals were recorded in Binga, one of the country`s poorest district.
“In Victoria Falls between January and March the courts received 25 cases and 24 have been completed with 100% convictions,” Farawo told CITE.
“In Binga, the courts received 39 cases and 38 were completed with 37 convictions and one acquittal.
“In Hwange, the courts received 29 cases and 24 of them have already been concluded and four still pending.”
However, the figures have been received with mixed feelings from some villagers who claimed they were driven by socio-economic hardships to commit the crimes.
“We are suffering as villagers and our children are no longer able to go to school due to starvation. People resort to snaring small animals like impala and guinea fowls.
“Yes we know that it is a crime, but what we do when we have nothing to give our children. Do we watch them die? Those are the same animals that kill us and our wildlife and also destroying our fields,” Japhet Nyoni from Siabuwa village said.
Kujena Mumpande from chief Siansali echoed similar sentiments.
“Here we do not poach for money. Those who kill elephants or keep pangolins will be doing it for money and must be sent to jail.
“At times you can come across a dead animal and the moment you pick it up, villagers immediately report you and you can go to jail for that, but these are animals injuring us and our livestock, so the courts must be lenient.”
Farawo said the statistics only catered for endangered species that had a mandatory nine-year sentence or the equivalent of a fine.
“Most of these crimes recorded have to do with poaching of endangered species like elephants and pangolin,” he explained.
“As for reasons why these offenders commit those crimes, is not something that I would like to be drawn into but I believe the numbers are higher in those areas due to vast wildlife.
“We are grateful with what our judiciary has been doing in dealing with wildlife crimes and poaching and we will continue with our awareness and educational campaigns. Most of our cases which are brought before courts are expeditiously dealt with.”
Farawo said in 2018, the courts managed to convict at least 70 people who were sentenced to nine years in prison, an increase from the previous year where almost fifty-five people were convicted for related crimes and has seen a massive decline in poaching cases compared to the previous years.