PG concerned anti-poaching activities have only netted small fish

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By Matabeleland North Correspondent

THE National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is working on establishing a wildlife and environmental crime directorate whose mandate would be to ensure use of financial intelligence in the arrest and prosecution of wildlife related crimes.

The decision follows realisation that the country’s police and prosecution is still glued to outdated methods whereupon police arrest to investigate with many cases often dismissed in the courts for lack of evidence.

Prosecutor General Kumbirai Hodzi revealed this while addressing a wildlife law enforcement workshop in Victoria Falls on Monday.

“We in the NPA are in the process of establishing a wildlife and environmental crime directorate,” Hodzi said.

“It is envisaged that the directorate will be the centre of excellence in the prosecution of wildlife offences and will be manned by mostly dedicated professionals.”

He said lack of use of financial intelligence had seen over the years only low-end poachers being arrested while the so-called big fish who are behind the heists are not accounted for because of police’s failure to investigate.

Police and rangers need training, he said.

“We need to recognise that wildlife crime now has transnational and global attributes and prosecutors and investigators need to have a shift from the old localised mindset through continuous training to move away from a situation where investigation stopped at arrest and seizure without looking at the money flows, profit and financial gains.

“Rangers and police must now develop the skills to be able to identify and preserve finance related evidence at a wildlife crime scene.

“We need to develop skills and expertise to be able to meticulously read a crime scene and analyse all the evidence and be able to follow the money and disrupt the organisers through an aggressive forfeiture regime.

“The challenge is that we have accounted for poachers on the low end of the chain and failed to account for those on the high end, the people who plan and mastermind the offences and reap all the rewards.

“This has been caused by our lack of use of systematic financial investigative tools,” said Rwodzi.

Currently, wildlife cases are prosecuted under the Parks and Wildlife Management Act (Chapter 20:14).

The workshop, which ends Friday, is being attended by the financial intelligence unit, Zimparks, police, judiciary and prosecution.