As part of activities leading up to World Environment Day the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is excited to announce the conclusion and publication of an intensive scoping investigation evaluating the effectiveness of compliance monitoring and enforcement of South Africa’s biodiversity and conservation legal regim.
The EWT staff, members of civil society and other NGOs are not always aware of how and where to report suspected conservation and biodiversity non-compliance activities. Through this activities the EWT will report suspected criminal activities to the relevant authorities and regularly follow-up to ensure that the appropriate investigation and/or enforcement action has taken place. The EWT also keeps the identity of complainants secure where and when requested and is therefore the contact person when more information is required or feedback is provided.
A list recording the various investigations on suspected conservation and biodiversity non-compliance issues initiated by the EWT and the subsequent outcomes was developed and is being updated regularly. New complaints are added as they are received and updates on recorded cases are recorded every three months.
- Expert Witness List
There has been a marked increase in the number of biodiversity criminal cases throughout South Africa. State Prosecutors and investigating officers often lack the expert knowledge required to obtain a successful conviction and a strong penalty. Various subject experts, such as reptile specialists, bird specialists, wildlife veterinarians and wildlife DNA specialists, who are willing to assist the SAPS and State Prosecutors, have been identified. A list of expert witnesses has been compiled for dissemination to various investigating officers, State Prosecutors and other stakeholders. Currently most of the expert witnesses identified are based Gauteng. The list will be expanded to included expert witnesses in all nine provinces. The list is currently available on request to any person requiring expert biodiversity assistance.
- Assisting State Prosecutors and investigating officers with identifying the relevant environmental legislation and sections for charge sheets and dockets. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Justice College have embarked on an environmental legislation training course. However, not all prosecutors preparing biodiversity related cases have been able to attend the training courses. Assistance is rendered to prosecutors who have requested assistance with relevant legislation and sections of such legislation for their charge sheets, information on additional charges, for example adding the Animals Protection Act to charge Rhino poachers with cruelty against animals. The aim is to ensure very strong cases against the accused which will hopefully lead to successful convictions with strong penalties. Where needed, the EWT therefore aims to assist State Prosecutors with finding the correct environmental legislation and relevant sections of the legislation to achieve successful convictions and strong penalties. The SAPS training college has not yet included training on environmental legislation and investigating environmental criminal cases. SAPS investigating officers therefore often require assistance with identifying the relevant environmental legislation and sections of such legislation to correctly charge suspects who have committed alleged conservation and biodiversity related crimes. An incomplete charge sheet will lead to an incomplete docket which may lead to an accused that is not successfully convicted or even on conviction does not receive a penalty which will deter future conservation crimes. Where needed, the EWT therefore aims to assist SAPS investigating officers with identifying the correct environmental legislation and relevant sections of the legislation to complete charge sheets.
In November 2012 Chumlong Lemtongtai was successfully prosecuted in the Kempton Park Regional Court. Magistrate Prince Manyathi handed down a 40 year sentence for the 52 charges. Twenty six charges in terms of the Customs and Excise Act and 26 in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 (NEMBA). In 2013 Lemtongtai was successful in the Pretoria High Court application to reduce his sentence and subsequently the sentence was reduced by 10 years. However, he instructed his legal team to apply to the Court of Appeals in Bloemfontein. This case was heard in September 2014 and the reduced sentence handed down on 26 September 2014. See attached documents for the full outcome as well as a summary. Case summery & Appeal