By Wallace Mawire
The People and Earth Solidarity Law Network (PESLawyers) with the support of environmental and wildlife organisations in Zimbabwe, petitioned Parliament of Zimbabwe on 21 March 2019 requesting that information and decisions concerning the export of Zimbabwean elephants, rhinos and other wildlife be made transparent and accessible to the public.
According to Lenin Tinashe Chisaira, People and Earth Solidarity Law Network, Environmental Lawyer and Executive Director, the organisations supporting the petition include the Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe (VAWZ), Sibanye Animal Welfare and Conservancy Trust (SAWC), Voices for African Wildlife (VFAW), Tikobane Trust, Zimbabwe Youth Biodiversity Network (ZYBN) and the Zimbabwe Elephants Foundation (ZEF).
The petition is based on environmental rights and the right to access information outlined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, and more specifically access to environmental information as outlined in Section 4 (1) (b) of the Environmental Management Act and in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES Convention).
The petitioners are disturbed mainly at the following issues:
- The wildlife management practices of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, especially on the capture and export of elephants, rhinos and other wildlife highlight lack of transparency and is being conducted without due regard for providing information on the quantity, frequency and financial or other gains from the exports to the general public and concerned citizens.
- the current capture policy of wildlife is incompatible with eco-tourism, is cruel and does not exhibit the evidence of appropriate and acceptable destinations; the continued capture and long-distance transport of live animals from Zimbabwe causes immense suffering as highlighted by research.
It is reported tat against this background, the petitioners call upon Parliament to exercise its constitutional role and address the following issues of public concern:
- Protect the constitutionally guaranteed right of every citizen right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that promote conservation; and;
- Protect the constitutional right of every citizen to access information and the statutory right of every person to access to environmental information; and
- Investigate the capture and export of wildlife to various international destinations, especially on whether the export of species is done in a way that ‘minimise the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment’ as provided for by Article IV of the CITES Convention.
- Review all legislation that negatively impacts on the welfare of animals and the general environment, and further to make legislative changes that ensure that the capture of wild elephants, rhinos and other wildlife for zoos, captive sites or non-secure foreign parks will no longer take place in Zimbabwe.
- Call on the Government of Zimbabwe to urgently to reverse, suspend or rescind such decisions by Zimparks that are not in the public interest or that contravene the statutory and constitutional environmental and access to information rights of the people.
- Call on the Government of Zimbabwe to ban the export from Zimbabwe of baby elephants, rhinos and other similar wildlife to protect and improve the welfare of elephants and other species. Furthermore, animal welfare experts must be given access to any captured wildlife to ensure that their welfare is maintained, and any issues are addressed immediately.
- Calls on Zimparks to make a firm commitment to be accountable and to work towards a conducive space for genuine eco-tourism within Zimbabwe.
- Inquire into the measures the Government of Zimbabwe is taking to achieve the realisation of rights to access to environmental information and environmental conservation.