A Swazi lawyer has won a prestigious environmental award for her work exposing the extra-judicial killings of suspected poachers by game rangers.
Thuli Makama told the BBC she wanted to end the violence and see poachers prosecuted instead. Under Swazi law, rangers can use force to prevent poaching.She is one of six winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize – which is sometimes known as the Nobel prize for the environment. Ms Makama, head of the Swazi environmental group Yonge Nawe, said the problem of rangers “overstepping” their powers occurred mostly in private game reserves.
“We are seeing incidents where people are being pursued to their homes,” she told the BBC’s Network Africa programme. “Where people are taken from their houses and all sorts of things are done to them.”
Ms Makama said while researching a documentary about local communities, she discovered at least 20 cases of suspected poachers who had been killed or maimed.
Poaching was often nothing more than the odd killing of an antelope or warthog in protected land, she told the Associated Press agency.
“These are just hunters and gatherers who need this to survive,” she said. “People are being killed for hunting a small impala.” But some point out that criminal syndicates run well-equipped and heavily armed poaching operations. Ted Reilly, head of the private Big Game Parks, said his rangers act within Swaziland’s anti-poaching laws, often at great personal risk, AP reports.
“Very similar numbers of rangers have been killed in the line of duty by poachers as vice versa,” he said. Ms Makama believes suspected poachers should be arrested and “taken through the due process of law”. “There are many illegal acts that should not mean you are tried, sentenced and executed at the scene,” she told the BBC.
Ms Makama will receive her award – and $150,000 (£98,000) in prize money – in San Francisco on Monday.