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Zimbabwean Animal Law Alum and Incoming LL.M. Use Legal System to Protect Rhinos

August 03, 2018

A recent LL.M. graduate and an incoming LL.M. student from the Lewis & Clark Center for Animal Law Studies were instrumental in the successful prosecution of four poachers from a December 2017 incident involving Moga, a protected rhino.

Ever Vimbai Chinoda, ’17 a graduate of the Animal Law LL.M. degree program and founder of Speak Out for Animals (SOFA), along with Prisca Daka, legal officer at SOFA and incoming Animal Law LL.M. student, supported the prosecution.

The dramatic story unfolded on December 17, 2017, in Zimbabwe’s Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC), home to a key population of black rhino, when a ranger heard a single gunshot. This sparked a full-day search for poachers, led by Director of Anti-Poaching Tracking Specialists Bryce Clemence.

The rangers discovered the rendezvous site and successfully ambushed the poachers when a vehicle came to retrieve them at 11pm. Seven men were arrested.

Moga, the rhino, was treated and has since recovered from his gunshot wound.

On July 9, 2018, the Masvingo Magistrates Court found four of the suspected poachers guilty as charged for unlawfully hunting a specially protected animal, possession of a firearm without a certificate, and equipping the firearm with a silencing device without obtaining permission. The men have been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The full story is told in this Zimbabwe news report.

Leaders from Lewis & Clark’s Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) first met with Clemence in 2013 as part of the International Visiting Leaders Program by State Dept. Two years later, Natasha Dolezal, Director of the International Animal Law Program at CALS visited Zimbabwe on an invitation from Clemence to learn and see first hand the challenges facing wildlife and successful prosecutions.

“It is very encouraging to have this support as it takes a lot of pressure off of us from an administrative point of view,” said Clemence. “Just knowing that someone passionate about wildlife and qualified at the law is chasing things up while we focus on law enforcement in the field is a great feeling.”  

After establishing donor funded LL.M. scholarships aimed at increasing animal law education and capacity abroad, Dolezal revisited Zimbabwe and met and recruited Chinoda, a former prosecutor turned legal officer for Zimbabwe Parks Authority. Chinoda then came to Lewis & Clark to complete her LL.M and become Zimbabwe’s first lawyer to specialize in animal law.

As part of Chinoda’s LL.M. program, she founded SOFA in Zimbabwe and conducted the first week-long Animal Law Training in March 2017. Daka attended that first training and was brought on board to manage SOFA in Zimbabwe while Chinoda was in the US. During this time, Chinoda guided Daka in growing SOFA in law schools as well as supporting prosecutors with wildlife cases. Daka will join Lewis & Clark Law School’s Animal Law LL.M. program in fall 2018.

The law school has been a leader and pioneer in the field of animal law education since 1992. In 2012, the program launched the world’s first advanced legal degree in animal law, post-J.D. master of laws. This LL.M.  is designed for US and international law school graduates who wish to focus on animal law in practice, teaching, research, or public policy.