Last update: 09-Dec-2013 11:04 am
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Hunters challenge Ganga: Prove link to poacher before taking guns
Hunters are challenging Environment Minister Ganga Singh to make a connection between the poacher held with the carcasses of 18 scarlet ibis over the weekend and legitimate law-abiding hunters or withdraw his decision for them (hunters) to give up their firearms.
“If there is no connection between legitimate, law-abiding hunters being involved, how can you use that as a justification for making that statement about seizing firearms?” Buddy Miller, president of the Confederation of Hunters Association for Conservation of T&T, asked on Tuesday. “It really does expose the horrible bias the minister has against law-abiding sportsmen,” Miller said. The scarlet ibis, the national bird, is a protected animal, during the open or closed season.
Tahir Ali, president of the St Patrick Hunter’s Association said: “The minister does not grant firearm licences...It is the Commissioner of Police and we have to meet certain criteria before we obtain a licence. “The area police have to investigate, check your dog kennel, see how many hunting dogs you have, how many times you have applied for licences, before it goes to the CoP for his consideration.”
Over the weekend, Singh, who has imposed a two-year ban on hunting, said hunters must now turn in their guns, after the discovery of 18 scarlet ibis carcasses by his ministry’s enforcement officers in Cacandee. Singh made clear his intention to get the information on all the firearm licences granted to hunters and have those firearms placed at the police station for the duration of the moratorium.
The moratorium on hunting is an attempt by the ministry to ensure wildlife is not hunted during the period to ensure the sustainable management of wildlife resources. Singh has proposed an increase in the fines and jail term for any one flouting this law, under the Conservation of Wildlife Act, which is being reviewed by the Attorney General.
President of the South Eastern Hunters Association Mohan Bholasingh said while there are a lot of unlicensed firearms “out there, the point is bona fide hunters do not shoot scarlet ibis.” “This is a fact, so why is it this minister is putting all this effort and pressure on hunters, as though hunters are the criminals in this country when hunters have been contributing all along to conservation,” Bholasingh said.
“If there is no wildlife there would be no hunting and hunters associations are the ones who actually do a lot of conservation in this country. The other people do talking.” “Our association has had 24 annual seminars, where we educate people on the negative impact of wildlife in this country. We have had 24 annual tree-planting exercises, which we started in this country. The ministry cannot claim that track record.
“But suddenly, this guy (Ganga Singh) comes on board, and without too much consultation, close the season, and now that the season is closed, you gather all these regiment and enforcement agencies to go down to the areas to see if hunters are hunting.” Bholasingh said hunters have to go through a very difficult process to get a firearm licence and as such, they would not do anything to jeopardise their licence being revoked. “Once a guy gets a firearm, he will guard it with his life,” he said.
“He is not going to take that firearm and go into any illegal activity. He is not going to take it and shoot any scarlet ibis and that is something the minister must know. It seems he does not understand the culture of hunting.”
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