T&T's strategic location between South and North America has made it vulnerable as a trans-shipment point for the illegal wildlife trafficking, an activity given a monetary value of over US $30 billion. This was revealed by acting deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Housing and the Environment Anthony Ramnarine. Ramnarine was speaking on Monday during the launch of a poster as part of the awareness campaign on wildlife trade management in T&T. The campaign is a joint initiative of the Forestry Division, Ministry of Housing and the Environment, Zoological Society of T&T and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
According to Ramnarine, the illegal trade of wildlife was third globally after drug trafficking and arms trafficking. He said law enforcement efforts had not been enough and saw a new strategy of education resources was being used. He said the posters would be used to enhance the efforts of wildlife law enforcement and highlight the forestry division as the agency responsible for issuing wildlife permits. "Members of the public who wish to trade in wildlife, whether import or export should consult the forestry division or the zoological society of T&T," said Ramnarine.
Acting president of the Zoological Society Benjamin De La Rosa said protecting wildlife heritage was a shared responsibility not just the burden of the Government. He said the society had done its part by providing housing for animals involved in court matters from attempts to traffic them. "Smuggling of animals is an enforcement challenge which wardens have to face regularly," said de la Rosa. Programme Director of Wildlife Trade at IFAW Kelvin Alie said the poster was the second part of the campaign, the first being the training of law enforcement officers and game wardens in areas such as investigating breaking of wildlife laws. He said phase three would involve the training of management and decision-makers.
He said people needed to be aware of the role they played in terms of wildlife trafficking. "The person who purchases these animals are the last link in a chain of criminal activities," said Alie. "What is at stake is literally life on this planet," he said. Acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry Joy Creese delivered an address on behalf of Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal who was unable to attend. The address highlighted Government's amendment to the Fisheries Act to completely ban the hunting of all marine turtles as a demonstration of the country's commitment to meeting international obligations.