THREE French nationals have been arrested in Southern Province for allegedly removing and destroying vegetation for the wildlife sanctuary at Sekula Island in Sinazongwe District.
The island on Lake Kariba is well known for its various species of birds as well as animals, and it is protected by the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).
Sources and documents obtained by the Sunday Times indicated that Reuben Bouckaret, Vincent Bouckaret and Dunavan Rwizi were picked up by ZAWA officers on Saturday last week after being found in the area without permission.
They were believed to be tourists although it was not clear where they were coming from at the time of the arrest.
The sources said the three had gone to the animal-rich island and started collecting some firewood without permission from ZAWA.
According to the sources, the three foreign nationals could, however, not appear in court immediately after being arrested because of lack of an interpreter in the Choma magistrate court, which resulted in their prolonged detention.
It is believed that the Europeans only managed to appear in court for mention on Friday after being incarcerated for about five days before they were granted K10,000 bail each.
ZAWA public relations officer, Wilfred Moonga said he was not aware about the matter but promised to follow it up.
But the detention of the three nationals has irked French Ambassador to Zambia Marie-Annick Bourdin who is seeking clarification from the Zambian authorities on why the three were detained on a bailable offence.
“The ambassador is not happy because she thought the case was not very serious to detain the three for days when it was a bailable offence and she has made that clear to the Government,” said the source.
Some family members of the three tourists have since travelled from France to Zambia to offer solidarity when they re-appear in court next month.
According to the court documents obtained by the Sunday Times during the week, the three have since been charged with three counts over the matter and will appear in court for trial on October 7, 2013.
“The first count is removal of vegetation from the wildlife sanctuary at Sekula Island in Sinazongwe contrary to Section 144(1, 2 and T) of the ZAWA Act number 12 of the laws of Zambia,” the documents state.
“The other count is unlawful entry to the wildlife bound sanctuary contrary to Section 144(1, 2 and T) of the ZAWA Act number 12 of the laws of Zambia.”
Sekula Island was gazetted as a bird sanctuary together with Chete under a Statutory Instrument of 1982 to protect and conserve the diverse wildlife resources, and the area’s eco-system for economic
recreation, educational, and scientific purposes.
The two areas were protected by ZAWA after being created during the construction of Lake Kariba from 1955 to 1958 and covers a distance of about 12 kilometres from Sinazongwe.