Wildlife traumatised in prohibited sanctuary
The Trinity Hills Wildlife Sanctuary has always been a favourite destination for hikers and nature lovers in general. This area numbers among the last relatively pristine areas of our country.
The sanctuary forms part of the Trinity Hills Reserve and is one of the areas declared a prohibited area by order of the Conservation of Wildlife Act Ch. 67:01 and the Forests Act Ch. 66:01. This is the ideal natural environment where wild life remains undisturbed and as such thrives in the various habitats.
A forest of seasonal evergreen clothes the 16,020 acres of this Southern Range sanctuary. Large trees such as hog plum and balata give sustenance to 16 species of mammals and 31 species of birds occupying the area.
Among these are bands of primates such as red howler monkeys and weeping capuchins whose sounds you distinctly hear as each asserts its dominion over the forest. The Trinidad Piping Guan also graces the canopy of these southern rain forests.
On the forest floor, most of the animals and reptiles native to Trinidad find a place here. From deer to tattoo and from mapepire to morocoy, some of the largest grown species of the latter flourish here, largest because they live in a prized sanctuary that sustains home species as any unique sanctuary would.
The Trinity Hills Sanctuary is also an important historic site. The three sisters, as its highest elevations are called, have been recorded as the first sighting of land by Christopher Columbus in the 15th century.
Also part of the Trinity Hills Sanctuary is the Lagon Bouffe. The bouffe is regarded as Trinidad's most beautiful mud volcanic lake. In the rainy season, the lake is punctuated with fountains of water shooting into the air at regular intervals. In the dry season, the lake is transformed into a soft bubbly mass that swells and bursts with a loud 'pop' here and there across the surface.
A unique wild life sanctuary you might say. Yes, it definitely is. However, recent hikers into the area reveal that the nature of this undisputedly precious natural resource has changed significantly.
Clear-cut trails criss cross the area in a grid pattern stretching from Antilles on the northern end past the area of the Lagon Bouffe, which is less than quarter mile from the eastern end.
In muddy areas of the forest, the prints of large wheels are now filled with water. Hikers were just in time to view a wheel tractor pulling a compressor into the forest. This explained the wheel marks present throughout the forest where there were no tractor trails previously. Cables, batteries and various other types of equipment then lead over the hills toward the south coast. Holes bored in the ground left poorly covered are now filled with water. At the top of the highest of the Trinity Hills there is now a workers' camp.
Hikers accustomed to the usual din created by Red Howler Monkeys and other wild life now tell a different story. The sanctuary is now a silent place except for the sounds of workers making their way to and fro.
Members of the communities of Guayaguayare and Moruga report that since seismic work began in the area in 2010 (CEC 2784/2010), wild life species have been so traumatised by the heavy blasts throughout the area that most have migrated elsewhere. They even tell of a known poacher who heads one of the work gangs "moving out" large numbers of morocoys from the area. The few animals and birds that remain display noticeable changes in behaviour as they are now more wary and elusive.
Fishermen in Moruga complain that the sounds of the blasts have a negative effect on fishing. According to one fisherman in La Rufin, fishermen have experienced very heavy losses.
"The money we put out we can't make back. The blasting affecting the fish so bad that when we make a pass to pick up fish pots we find all the fish dead in the pot. The catch in general is not how we accustomed to getting it. Moruga always has the most fish in Trinidad, but this blasting running all the fish out of the area."
To all intents and purposes, it appears that the Trinity Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and Prohibited Area is opening up. Bearing in mind the commencement of the hunting season 2012 to 2013 in less than two weeks time, this column contacted Buddie G Miller, the vice-president of the Confederation of Hunters' Associations for Conservation.
"The Trinity Hills Wild Life Sanctuary is a prohibited area. As far as I know, the laws have not been changed. Hunters are obligated to uphold the laws of the land."
Despite this view that the Trinity Hills area remains off limits, the situation in reality tells a different story. It is either that the existing laws need to be enforced or urgent amendments need to be made.