A Chaguanas man caught with 18 carcasses of the Scarlet Ibis, the national bird, was sentenced yesterday to 18 months' in prison."What you are doing is stealing from the country's treasure," said Chaguanas magistrate Bramanand Dubay as he sentenced Kenny Rattan, 43.Rattan will serve only a month as the magistrate ordered the sentences to run concurrently.Rattan, an oyster vendor, and his 15-year-old relative, a construction worker, pleaded guilty to 18 counts of possession of the carcass of a protected animal.
Rattan, the teenager and their cousin, who escaped custody, were arrested on Sunday at Shipping Road Extension, Felicity.Court prosecutor Sgt Michael Jackman said around 11 am game warden Richard Ramlogan and other officers were on foot patrol near the mangrove forest when he saw the two accused and another man.The men were carrying black bags and wearing muddy clothing.The 15-year-old was holding a pellet gun.
Ramlogan found the 18 carcasses in Rattan's knapsack.The 15-year-old boy had two nets in a black plastic bag and the third man had a black plastic bag with red cloth.When Ramlogan told them of the offence they had committed, Rattan said: "Boss, we went to catch crab."Jackman said Ramlogan, who had 13 years' experience, was able to identify the bird by the necks of the carcasses. Red feathers were also found in a knapsack. Jackman said the third suspect escaped.
In asking for a non-custodial sentence, attorney Taradath Singh said Rattan, the father of four and grandfather of three, and the teenager went to the swamp to catch oysters. He said they did not capture the birds but met their cousin, who had the carcasses, and decided to help him with the bags.Singh said the gun also belonged to their cousin.Rattan has a previous conviction for cocaine possession.
The magistrate said: "This is an offence against T&T. The scarlet ibis is our national bird. It is not like you are hunting an agouti and Ganga Singh (Environment Minister) has closed the hunting season. You ought not to be hunting in the first place."He said such an offence warranted a custodial sentence."If everybody go to hunt down Scarlet Ibis, what our children and grandchildren will see?
"Tourists come to see them. They are supposed to be a national treasure. What you are doing is stealing the country's treasure," the magistrate added.He ordered the rifle to be forfeited by the State and the other items to be disposed of by the chief game warden.The magistrate also asked for a probation officer's report on the teenager and released him on $10,000 bail with his mother as surety.He will reappear on November 1.