– This diploma is intended for officials in different governmental and non-profit organisations who work and practise with flora and fauna.
Cecil the Lion with his offsprings in Hwange National Park before he was illegally shot and killed by an American dentist in 2015
Harare, Zimbabwe – Following five years of advocacy, and eight years after the death of Cecil the Lion, the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), Commercial Law Institute will launch a postgraduate diploma in Wildlife Law and Policy in February 2024. This will enable graduates in related fields, including ecologists, environmentalists, and lawyers, to pursue studies in wildlife law.
Shot with a crossbow, in Hwange National Park in 2015, 13-year-old Cecil was left wounded and in pain, before finally being killed many hours later. The world understandably reacted with outrage, with global news coverage and a social media storm showing just how strongly people felt about his death.
This prompted Vimbai Everlasting “Ever” Chinoda to establish Speak Out For Animals (SOFA) in 2017, in response to the illegal hunting of the famous lion.
This diploma is intended to influence appropriate decision-making and policies that are in the best interests of Zimbabwe’s wildlife by going after officials who work with and are trained in dealing with flora and fauna in a variety of governmental and non-profit organisations. This was disclosed at a recent meeting of the University of Zimbabwe Chapter of Speak Out For Animals (SOFA).
The purpose of the meeting was to increase public awareness of topics like exploitation, animal law, and cruelty to animals.
More than 32 animal conservation enthusiasts from the faculties of law, political science, the arts, environmental science, and agroeconomics are represented in the chapter. They are all committed to promoting animal protection legislation, lobbying for improved animal care, and securing better treatment for animals.
Ever recognised the pressing need to use the legal system to safeguard Africa’s vulnerable species. Since 2021, SOFA and the International Foundation for Animal Welfare (IFAW) have collaborated on this project.
After being introduced at Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) in 2021, the wildlife law module is currently available at UZ and is anticipated to be made available at other universities that have SOFA chapters, such as Midlands State University (MSU) and Chinhoyi.
SOFA meetings provide a safe space for members to personally improve their relationship with animals.
Two group members who were raised in the Zimbabwean provinces of Masvingo and Mashonaland East acknowledged to participating in community hunting, which entails a large gathering of boys and men—up to twenty people—who, armed with dogs, bows, arrows, and machetes, spend days in the bush hunting antelope, rabbits, and kudu in order to provide for their families.
“We realised as we began to understand that the way we were hunting was cruel to the animals and so we encourage one another to drop practices we now realise are harmful to animals. We also take the message home to friends and family,” said one member.
Another SOFA member explained that through the organisation’s efforts, “We believe that a bright and safe future for our animals is possible.”
Sibusisiwe Ntini, president of the SOFA-UZ chapter is inspired by a deep love and compassion for animals. “Animals cannot speak, but we can,” she says. “Our aim is to bring awareness to other students on the importance of protecting animals.”
Her first-hand experiences with a pet and encountering wildlife in natural habitats motivated her to act, especially after learning about the challenges animals face.
The 24-year-old is studying for a degree in Risk Reduction and Disaster Management and intends to focus on animal rescue and rehabilitation, working with organisations that specialises in helping animals affected by natural disasters.
“I want to contribute to these efforts by providing emergency care, shelter, and support to animals in need,” she said.
Another member, Phonos Nyakudya, a 23-year-old law student, appreciates that SOFA encourages and empowers its members to make a difference wherever they are.
“It is a unique club. It calls for commitment to be a relevant virtue in everyday duties,” he says. “I would like to specialise in wildlife law when I finish university, especially if I get an organisation with similar interests.”
“We raise awareness among students on animal welfare, their rights, and the laws that protect them.”
“We discuss pertinent issues at campus, local, and national levels. Our current members are truly in the club because they want to play a part in saving and protecting animals,” says Sibusisiwe.