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Crackdown on illegal hunting
Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal is planning to hire more game wardens, following reports of increased illegal hunting camps at the protected Mayaro Forest Reserve. A report compiled by the T&T Field Naturalists Club shows more than 33 illegal camps have been set up in the Navet and Edward Trace region.
President of the club Edison Baptiste said wildlife had been severely depleted by excessive hunting. “These structures are built for the purpose of overnight and/or weekend stays in the forests, thus removing the last form of defence for wildlife population,” Baptiste said. He explained that some of these structures have gone far beyond the stage of simple shelters.
He called on hunters to “partner with conservationists to implement sensible methods of protection of species for future generations.” Baptiste also said all illegal structures must be removed and the forest cover should be allowed to regenerate. “The Field Naturalists Club is not advocating the banning of hunting in properly regulated seasons, but we believe that Petrotrin and other holders of active leases in forested areas have a responsibility to control use of their roads for access, where necessary, to uphold the law for their own security,” he said.
The report, which was submitted to the Forestry Division, offered eight recommendations. These included increased numbers of game wardens, increased powers for game wardens and permits to carry defensive arms in order to properly protect wildlife.
“The Wildlife Section of the forestry department should conduct regular annual surveys of wildlife and maintain and analyse records to determine whether the next hunting season be opened as normal, or shortened, limited to specific areas, or suspended for a specified period,” Baptiste said. He said such surveys should be done by established organisations that participate in hunting, bona fide researchers and objective conservationists.
He also called for stiffer penalties for hunting out of season, buying or selling wild meat, failing to obtain a hunting permit and setting traps or trap guns. “A system of verifying bona fide breeders and farmers of domesticated wild species must be established within the Ministry of Agriculture to certify the legal sales described. Contacted on Friday, Moonilal confirmed that more game wardens would be hired.
He said further details would be announced by Conservator of Forests Anthony Ramnarine. Petrotrin’s head of corporate communications, Gillian Friday, said on Friday that Petrotrin has security arrangements to safeguard land holdings, which were constantly reviewed to identify any breaches. She said in cases where illegal activities are identified, Petrotrin will take action. However, she said preliminary reports showed most of the camps identified by the group were on state lands.
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