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Last lap for the hunt

By Heather Dawn Herrera

Today is the last day of the 2012-2013 physical part of the hunting season. For the next month, that is, until the end of March, all meats in the possession of parties must be got rid of.

Hunting in the forests of Trinidad and Tobago is now prohibited until next season beginning October, or so the huntsmen hope. Talk of a two-year ban on hunting is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, those who use the forests during the closed season are preparing for their time with the hope that this time would indeed be extended for two years.

It has been the experience of bonafide huntsmen to return to their camp unannounced only to find parts of their camp stolen or damaged and the forests around made dangerous by illegal plantations and trappers.

These were some of the discussions we participated in during our visit to the Balata East camp for the last weekend of the hunt. Our outfit spent time with the Nariva Mayaro Hunters' Group here. Our wish was to share in this experience with this group because we have personally observed over the years that the Ali family has always abided by the standards set by the Confederation of Hunters' Associations of Trinidad and Tobago (CHAC) and so steadfastly observed the laws of the land.

From the moment we reached the camp we could smell the delicious aroma of curried meat. Akbar was busy turning the pot with one hand and greeting us with the other. Ragee, from our group, who is known to visitors to La Pastora Lopinot for her sweet hand, went up to him to investigate.

"This looks good. It certainly smells good. We can't wait to taste this duck!"

Daren came forward and greeted us.

"This is how we always do it, you know that. We always bring food to the camp so in the event that we don't catch an agouti we could still relax and enjoy ourselves."

There was a pot of provision bubbling on the side and salad on the table. Carol Rampersad shared the coconut chutney that aunt Ragee had made that morning.

"We're about to go out to see if we could catch something to top off the season today. If we do, that's great. If we don't, it's great also because we still have so much here to enjoy. Just the ambience of the forest and family and friends around to enjoy the time with is the best anyone could ever ask for."

The younger ones were busy outside the camp digging topi tambo out of the earth. The grounds around the camp site were flourishing with food plants. We were very impressed when these young ones began to replant the head of the topi tambo they were reaping so that they could get more in the future.

The Alis left to go on the hunt. Akbar remained with us, expressing his concern that the poachers, the trappers, the pipe setters and the herb planters would make this their territory soon. We remembered the incident when, during the absence of the family in the closed season, men moved into the area and felled a palmiste tree directly on to the camp just to get the young parrots in the nest atop the tree. The camp was badly damaged. We could see that there was still restoration work to be done.

After about two hours, the hunting party returned. They produced one agouti.

Daren placed it on the counter. "This is what I was talking about. We're very happy with this one agouti. Our family has been hunting here for over 80 years. We are the third generation of huntsmen and as you can see we can still go out and catch game. This is not so in other areas where huntsmen go out and shoot all the animals they come across in one hunt.

"It is important that we maintain a presence here so that this tract of forest and its wildlife can be preserved. Our presence here is a deterrent to people who might come in here to destroy all the wild life and practise illegal activities."

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