Tag Archives: magistrate

A Pangolin’s day in Court

first-walk

How many readers have had the truly spiritual experience of being in the presence of a Cape Pangolin? For myself, there is never an occasion that prepares me for receiving a pangolin as each animal touches my very soul. These animals truly are the most remarkable and mystical animals, which deserve the utmost respect and honour that our Shona culture has bestowed upon them. However, the air of mystery surrounding these creatures has also contributed to the decline in their numbers, as when they are found in the wild, they are picked up and presented to the Chief or more often, the President. From this point on, it normally spells doom for the pangolin, since they do not eat or drink once captive. This is because they are highly specialized feeders, having what we refer to as a tube mouth with no articulating jaws. They lick up ants and termites with a very long sticky tongue and drink water in the same manner. Pangolin are taken from all over the country, they endure tortuous journeys bound up in sacks or other suffocating and confining containers, to be brought to the Capital, starving, terrified and dehydrated. As a nation, I think we need to address our expression of respect to this species.

The logo of the Tikki Hywood Trust is the pangolin, for us symbolic of our admiration of this animal. We are also recognised, as the authority on captive care, management and release of cape pangolin and due to this reputation we have working arrangement with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. What this means is that any pangolin presented to any member of the government is accepted and then handed to the Trust for safekeeping and or release.

This is an account of exactly this type of situation which took place recently;

On 1stJuly personnel from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, called us to confirm that we would take a pangolin who had been removed from the wild and which the C.I.D. department of Border Control Mines and Minerals personnel were about to confiscate. We of course accepted this request. The story unfolds that the Parks investigations unit had been alerted to a pangolin that had been brought into Harare, with the intention of the poachers to sell the animal. Yes, we have labeled them poachers because they have illegally removed this animal from its natural habitat.

In a true movie style operation, a trap was laid for the pangolin poachers, who had pegged the price of this invaluable animal at a mere USD $ 7000.00! Once arrested, the two suspects were taken into custody on 1st July and were held until the hearing the following Monday where they were released on bail. We were advised to come and collect the pangolin when the suspects had been arrested and we then made the fretful journey to Central Vehicle Registry (also the Offices for the C.I.D. Department) in the centre of Harare not knowing what to expect. Afternoon traffic on a Friday in the centre of Harare is not to be trifled with and add this to the fact that an ocean of people gathered all wanting to catch a glimpse of this rare sight. The pangolin had been taken from the Chimanimani area of Zimbabwe and brought to Harare in a sack in a boot of a car. Upon seeing him for the first time we discovered that he was a large mature animal, but was terrified and rolled up in a very tight ball. During the phone call from the Investigating Officer to advise us to come and collect the pangolin, he stated that they had no idea how to take the animal out of the boot and then what to do with it. With the flashes of phone cameras and a pressing and craning of necks to see the rare species we managed to transfer him to a more comfortable crate with a deep bed of hay in the back of the Trust vehicle. Once we had the pangolin safely in our care, I went to fill out a statement with the investigating officer. The case had been set for court for the following Monday 8.15 am, and since it was Friday, this meant that this pangolin was to be in our care for the weekend.

centre-of-attractionweighing

If anyone has ever had anything to do with a pangolin, they will know that there is nothing more difficult in the world than to feed a pangolin, let alone, a pangolin who has been terrified, kept in a chicken coop for four days and undergone immense stress. On the first night we walked for two hours hoping that he might at least eat something, but all he did was walk. The sights and smells must have been so completely foreign to him from his highland home, much less the two-legged ‘torturers’ that appeared to be following his every move. On getting him home he went into the Tikki Hywood Trust nursery room, which we deemed to be the most secure place to hold him and also where we could create heat and warmth with an oil heater and bean bags. When under stress, pangolin find it very difficult to regulate their temperature, so we have to do this artificially. After investigating every corner of the room, he found a place that felt safe and curled up. We swathed him in a thick blanket and a hot bean bag at his side. For the first time in a number of days, I believe he had a restful and deep sleep. Over the course of the weekend he was walked between three and four hours in the evening, in the hopes of stimulating his natural foraging behaviour. On each occasion his trust towards us had improved, but still he did not eat any food. We placed him directly on ant nests and termite mounds but he showed absolutely no interest. This being my biggest concern, as he had now not eaten for a minimum of 7 days if not longer, I spoke to the police over the weekend saying that we had to petition the animal’s release as soon as possible. What I was not aware of but soon became clear, was that the pangolin itself was booked as evidence and therefore had to be presented in court in order for the prosecution to have a solid case. So early Monday we headed to the police station once again with the pangolin in a crate, wrapped up in his blanket to see if we authorize his release before night fall. Thankfully, due to full co-operation from the CID Mines and Minerals, as well as the courts and the Magistrate, we were able to get through the legal proceedings and the pangolin on his way to being released by midday. For purposes of the animal’s safety, we respectfully decline to mention where he was released.

seeing-the-world

For those of you reading, like ourselves, you may be confused and angered by the fact that the animal had to be physically used as evidence, being carted from one foreign environment to another, but this is an indication of a system that was devised with unfamiliarity of the welfare and survival of live exhibits. Now that we have experienced this situation we can work towards improving the legislation and the court procedure to benefit the animals in question.

In the meantime, we offered to assist both the Police and the Parks Authority in preparing the docket, as we also needed to understand the legal implications of this case. All too often this is where the momentum is lost as our Public Prosecutors are not well versed in the wildlife laws of the country. All departments involved at this point where incredibly enthusiastic and grateful for the assistance and on the Sunday before the first hearing we frantically put together the following legal citations;

The Primary charge is Part IX Section 45 of the Parks and Wildlife Act, Control of Hunting of Specially Protected animals and Procession and sale of Specially Protected Animals.

Under this section the crimes involved would be, illegal procession of Specially Protected Animal, holding an animal without a licence and or permit, noting that we are dealing in particular with a Specially Protected Endangered species such as a pangolin.

Section 59 of Part XII of the Parks and Wildlife Act, Control of Hunting Removal of Live animals and animal Products,

Specifically point (2) (b) where it states remove any animal or any part of any animal from any land or from one place to another on any land, further to this point

( 3) subject to this act no person shall sell any live animal or the trophy of any animal except in terms of a permit issued in terms of section 75 of the Parks and Wildlife Act [20:14].

(5) any person who contravenes sub-section (2) or (3) shall be guilty of an offense.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Section 3 Offences

(1) Any person who –

Sub-section (e), wantonly or unreasonably does or causes or procures the commission of any act likely to infuriate or terrify any animal;

or Sub-section (g) cruelly or unnecessarily ties up or confines any animal or causes or permits any animal so to be tied up or confined;

or Sub-section (h) conveys or carries or causes or procures or, being the owner, permits to be conveyed or carried, any animal in such a manner or position as to cause the animal unnecessary suffering;

Shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level five or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

(The justification for citing this Act is due to the fact that the pangolin, once captured, was being kept in a chicken coop, where the animal contracted parasitic mites which it would not have been subjected to under wild circumstances. In short, the cage was entirely inappropriate.)

scale-damage

Photo above of scale damage due to being in captivity

Trapping of Animals (CONTROL) Act, Part VIII – General Section 22 Control of sale, etc.,of animals trapped Sub-section

(1) Notwithstanding the trapping, in terms of this Act or in terms of a permit or licence granted in terms of this Act, of any animal as defined in section 2 of the Parks and Wildlife Act [Chapter 20:14], the sale or disposal of such animal or the whole or any part of the carcass thereof shall be subject to the Parks and Wildlife Act [Chapter 20:14]. Sub-section

(2) No person shall sell or dispose of any animal or the whole or any part of the carcass thereof which he has trapped in convention of any of the provisions of this Act.

Sub-section (3) Any person who contravenes sub-section (2) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level six or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to both such a fine and such imprisonment.

In addition to the above legal citing, we would also obviously prosecute on the basis of the standard trapping and hunting fines per species.

After the deliberations prior the court appearance on Monday, it was decided that the following two counts would represent the thrust of the Prosecutor’s case;

The Primary charge is Part IX Section 45 of the Parks and Wildlife Act, Control of Hunting of Specially Protected animals and Procession and sale of Specially Protected Animals.

Under this section the crimes involved would be, illegal procession of Specially Protected Animal, holding an animal without a licence and or permit, noting that we are dealing in particular with a Specially Protected Endangered species such as a pangolin.

Section 59 of Part XII of the Parks and Wildlife Act,Control of Hunting Removal of Live animals and animal Products, Specifically point (2) (b) where it states remove any animal or any part of any animal from any land or from one place to another on any land, further to this point

( 3) subject to this act no person shall sell any live animal or the trophy of any animal except in terms of a permit issued in terms of section 75 of the Parks and Wildlife Act [20:14].

(5) any person who contravenes sub-section (2) or (3) shall be guilty of an offense. According to the legal deliberations we could not charge separately for the Cruelty Act, section 59 of the Parks and Wildlife Act as above encompassed the action of cruelty against the animal.

At the hearing on Monday 4th July the two suspects were released on USD $100.00 bail and told to return the following day, Tuesday 5th July to hear what the Magistrates decision whether to charge on only one count of illegal removal or to charge for the count of cruelty as well. Of course my initial reaction was panic as I did not think that the two suspects would return once they got out on bail! The next 12 hours were rather difficult to say the least and when I got that phone call saying that both suspects had appeared in court that morning and that the Magistrate was prepared to hear the case on both accounts section 45 and section 59 – I was relieved and exhilarated! The date of the trial has been set for 25th July 2011.

We at the Tikki Hywood Trust and most certainly all the Government Departments that we have worked with on this issue feel that this is indeed a victory, even though the trial has not yet taken place. It is definitely the first step towards bringing the justice system into line with more severe recognition of crimes against wildlife and could ont have been achieved without the co-operation and dedication to all involved – we salute you.

Neil Armstrong, may have taken that first step on the moon and thereby a giant leap for mankind, but this event and subsequent result, is equivalent of a lunar leap for all wildlife prosecution in Zimbabwe and in particular the pangolin! The following newspaper articles have been published with regards to this case, please take a moment to read them.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201107050708.html

http://www.newsday.co.zw/article/2011-07-05-pangolin-lands-mutsvangwa-in-trouble