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Our Wild Places Part 2
Recently there was a minor disturbance on Facebook with a flurry of reservations expressed about the propriety of a fete scheduled for an area called the Arboretum in Chaguaramas. The Environmental Management Authority tried unsuccessfully to stall the event at a liquor licence hearing. The magistrate granted the licence even though no noise variation was approved.
The Arboretum is essentially a clearing in the forest. Perhaps this was the attraction for the fete promoters, desperately competing for the fickle attentions of the party-going public. Notwithstanding the failure in court, the EMA sent the environmental police unit to ensure, at the very least, noise levels were not overbearing. The abridged version is: the police instructed the DJ that the music was too loud. He obliged by turning up the volume and was checkmated when the police “peed in the punch bowl” by shutting the dance down, albeit at two in the morning.
For its intervention in the matter, the EMA was drenched in the usual spittle of revulsion: “De EMA is ah wase ah time, dey cyar do nuttin’.” “EMA finally doing sometin’ after all dese years” (even though EMA actions are regularly publicised for the reading public). Even more disappointing, though not surprising, were the disdainful reactions to the prematurely curtailed revelry.
“I don’t know why they did that, the promoters promised to clean up the place afterwards!” “That is private land!” And my personal favourite: “That was a good example of sustainable use of the environment.” The quality of those comments are of serious concern, a potent reminder of the inestimable journey we have ahead of us in educating the public on issues of sustainable development and environmental conservation.
Activists were not grumbling about a monkey choking on a Sweetplate discarded by one of the “wild ones.” It is obvious that there are many among us who still believe that achieving a complex harmonious balance between man’s aspirations and the fragile natural world means chasing Charlie away.
It was surprising that all of this was done with the approval and therefore blessing of the Chagua-ramas Development Authority. Several years ago the Bush Diary crew was tramping through a river in Tucker Valley in search of caiman when it was warned out the area by a patrolling CDA police unit. It is also the only place in the country where I have ever seen signs posted at regular intervals reminding of the prohibition against crab catching.
Perhaps the focus has changed, given that recently I have seen an advertisement in the newspaper indicating that the CDA is inviting tenders from the public to establish motor cross sporting facilities in the peninsula. The idea is idiotic given that sport motorbikes, outside of Nikki Minaj, produce one of the most irritating sounds know to man.
Apart from casually discarded beer bottles and widespread scent-marking by drunken ravers, the primary issue is of course noise. For colonies of Red Howler Monkeys it could have the effect of disorienting or scattering troupes at night. For nocturnal animals, one can imagine that such disturbances would alter their feeding patterns.
Another argument provided was that this was just one night, “Wham dem howlers does make so much noise in de day, dey cyar take a little music in de night!” That folks is how we do eco-tourism. Now let me share an example of a more sustainable approach.
The Guinean Forest of West Africa is an incredibly diverse ecosystem. Yet 80 per cent of that rainforest has already been claimed by timber extraction and deleterious agricultural practices. A group called Conservation International intervened and assembled a number of partners to develop what would emerge as a magnificent plan to stem the tide of destruction.
This plan focused on the Kakum National Park. A canopy walkway comprising 1,000 feet of swinging bridge was erected. None of the trees were impaled with steel bolts to support the structure; rather steel cables were fastened around the tree trunks to support the suspended walkway. From that lofty vantage point visitors can see the forest elephant, the rare Diana monkey and more than 250 bird species.
In 1991, the park hosted fewer than 1,000 visitors annually. By 2000, that number made a nose-bleed climb to 90,000. Most notably, about 80 per cent per cent of that crowd is Ghanaian. There is another very important element to this eco-tourism mod-el. Visitors can be accommodated at a modest campsite and at night they are treated to the sounds of a bamboo orchestra from a neighbouring village. There is Ghanaian cuisine on offer, you can visit cocoa farms, a local gin distillery or listen to spooky nighttime “spider” stories.
Do you get where I’m going with this? It is the complete package, a multi-faceted experience that can no doubt instill in the traveller a feeling of really having immersed oneself, not only in the natural environment but the exotic satellite cultures. This is what I envision for our environment in T&T and, trust me, this is just a fleeting glimpse at the potential of the industry.
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