By Luckmore Safuli
A 34- year old Hwange-based ex-convict who was sentenced to nine years in prison for poaching in 2018 has become a wildlife ambassador.
Released from prison on a warrant of liberation after having served only a year, 34-year-old Newton Ndlovu considers himself lucky to be outside prison walls.
Not only did Ndlovu give his life to Jesus while in custody but he also vowed to take up awareness campaigns on the negative impact of poaching.
“I was made to believe that there are a lot of returns in poaching by a friend who also told me of people willing to buy the endangered pangolins. I was told that we would get US$6000 upon delivering the pangolin and unfortunate we were not lucky as we got arrested while trying to deliver the parcel,” he said
Ndlovu, whose new-found passion is wildlife conservation is convinced that ex-poachers can be turned into conservation champions and effectively play a part in the national drive to end the scourge.
“The biggest lesson for me was that in life you don’t always need short-cuts. My counsel to all would-be poachers is that there should not put their lives in danger for the sake of quick gains. I strongly feel it is our collective responsibility to preserve our heritage,” he said.
Ndlovu’s current boss at Madumabisa Abattoir in Hwange, Mr Shephard Katsidzira described the ex-poacher as an integral member of the staff and an inspiration to many.
2020 TUSK Wildlife Ranger of the Year, Zimbabwe’s Amos Gwema has embarked on the rehabilitation of ex-poachers as part of efforts to inspire more conservation champions.
“The rehabilitation programme will certainly need support from institutions such as the Zimbabwe, Prisons and Correctional Services and Zimparks as well as conservationists, pressure groups and the community. When someone is convicted it doesn’t mean that he is a misfit. We all need a second chance in life,” he said.
As the country’s wildlife stakeholders continue on a mission to raise conservation champions who can help preserve the country’s heritage and most importantly ‘The Big Five’, there is hope that more ex-poachers will see the benefits of protecting rather than decimating wildlife.