Last update: 07-Dec-2013 3:12 am
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Without enforcement ban will be for naught
Ganga Singh, Minister of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), announced a proposed two-year hunting ban, starting October 1, stiff increases in fines for illegal hunting and a critical baseline survey to determine how much wildlife is in the bush. Last week I wrote about going undercover as a poacher to research the realities of wildlife conservation in T&T. If caught, I’d have been fined $2000 or six months in jail. The proposed fine for my crime of “Hunting in the closed season without a special game license and not under the special conditions to exercise dogs in lands other than Forest Reserves and Game Sanctuaries” is $100,000 or 24 months in jail. I was willing to pay $2,000, but $100,000? Nope. I’ll walk the straight and narrow. Wildlife farming was mentioned as a means to provide wild meat for the national palette and income for rural communities. Raising wild animals for consumption is better than unsustainably harvesting them from the forest, but how can farm-raised wildlife (now there’s a contradiction in terms) be kept apart from poached or smuggled wild meat?
The importation of wild meat raises a similar problem. There is no realistic way to regulate it; you lose incentives for wildlife farming and it’s unethical to take another country’s resources after you’ve depleted your own. Importing wild meat opens a Pandora’s box that can undo all the good proposals announced. You may also import a host of wildlife diseases. Keep that box closed.
Wildlife farming to replenish animal stocks in forests, now that’s a good idea. There’s a lesson in recent history. Up until 2011 the Fisheries Act created a loophole which allowed the hunting of endangered sea turtles. Among others, male turtles could be caught 1,000 yards from the shoreline. Now you need to know that it’s virtually impossible to tell a male from a female turtle. Everybody apprehended with a turtle would claim it was caught outside the 1,000 yard zone. The result was a lively trade in endangered turtle meat. This government did what no other government did before, and granted turtles total protection. Having 14 Game Wardens for Trinidad is like having two police cars to patrol the island. I’m an outdoorsman. I have never encountered a game warden in the bush. Never. Hunters and poachers tell me the same. This is of no fault of the game wardens. There just aren’t enough of them.
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