Last update: 08-Dec-2013 4:55 am
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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View from a Tobago naturalist
The Native American Iroquois people had a tradition in the making of a decision. The rule was to examine the decision before you, and consider as to how it will affect the seventh generation from now. We need such a policy here and now.
Tobago wishes to be known as an “Eco-Isle.” And if that is to be so, there has to be some “eco” left for people to experience. While here, I spend most of my free time in the bush, and in study of Tobago’s natural history. All over T&T, wildlife populations are going down, ask any hunter, especially the more senior hunters. I have noticed a decline in the wildlife myself, over the past 20 years.
According to David Hardy of the Smithsonian Institution, who has studied the Biodiversity of Tobago for over a generation, Tobago’s forests once had Red-brocket Deer, two kinds of wild hog, a fox, musk rat, manatee, and other animals which roamed freely. They are now consigned to history. Will that be the fate of the present land mammals of Tobago? Is there a chance that our grandchildren will only see agouti, tattoo, and manicou in pictures? There is no question that something must be done.
At least three species of sea turtles once nested in such abundance, that they would crowd Tobago’s beaches in search of an open space to nest, even digging up each other’s nests as there were so many other nests on the beach.
The coral reefs are also losing out. Since 20 or more years, the coral reef life has plummeted by over 65 per cent. This is my own direct and personal observation. It is the same from Speyside, where the “World’s Largest Brain Coral” is dead, to Englishman’s Bay, where the once-thriving Elkhorn Coral is now hard to find any, to the world-renowned Buccoo Reef, where the coral communities barely hang on.
Rivers, which once held fish, eels, caiman and turtles, are now barren. Blue Crabs were plentiful everywhere, but now can only be found in fewer and fewer places. Land turtles, or morocoys are probably things of the past. Songbirds of Tobago have mostly been trapped out to extinction. The Picoplat, Chat, Nunbird, Silverbeak, Twa-twa and Bullfinch are all most likely extirpated from the Tobago wilds.
The wildlife situation is very bleak indeed for Tobago. But I do not come here to curse the darkness. I come here to help light candles. Tobago needs a new start, a fresh start. It all starts here, today. Commercial hunting needs to be stopped immediately. Sport hunting needs to be severely curtailed, or even ended.
At the very least, a moratorium needs to be implemented, while real scientific studies can be conducted on each individual species, to find out which, if any, is sustainable, and how. Protection of habitats and ecosystem protection also needs to be incorporated in the planning process.
Then there is the over-riding problem of enforcement: how to actually enforce any policy changes. Enforcement of even the present ineffectual regulations seems nearly impossible. But ask yourselves: “How will the seventh generation from now judge us?” We are in a position to make the necessary changes now.
We can change things. Does this community have the courage to do what it will take? I also call upon the Minister of the Environment and Water Resources to implement a hunting moratorium until real scientific evidence can determine if Tobago’s wildlife is sustainable.
Please consider not only the seventh generation in your deliberations on this most important issue, but consider the 70th generation, and how history will judge you.
I thank you for reading this, and I hope and pray that the right decisions will be made.
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