Saturday, February 24, 2018

Stricter hunting policy only good for poachers

I am heartened by the consultations on the Draft National Wildlife Policy which I think has the potential to do much good. However, there is a flawed assumption in the policy, as with some national security policies, that the wrong group is being targeted. In a lot of cases, law-abiding citizens are targeted for stricter control, which gives more space and bounty for those who act outside the law.

Despite my agreement for a shorter hunting season and for the other proposals in the draft policy, I somewhat sympathise with the legal hunters because they are the ones who will have to make the sacrifices even though they are not the ones who created the problem. From my personal observations of "the activities of the bush", I have noticed the problem is the poachers who hunt indiscriminately throughout the year, even borrowing firearms at times from licenced firearm owners to hunt. These illegal hunters kill everything, from pregnant animals to immature ones, and earn a substantial year-round salary from their horrendous practice.

Persons in the New Grant/ Brothers Road districts are well aware of "Mice", "Guts", "Bones" and "Marshall", who "cleaned out" the forest of that area to the point where if one sees a wild animal in the bush now, you'll run away and think it is a jumbie rather than a real creature.

While I applaud and support the present draft wildlife policy, I recommend to Environment and Water Resources Minister Ganga Singh to consult with the Ministry of National Security to find effective solutions against poaching; to partner with other organisations to have breed-and-release programmes; grant more accessible licences to persons interested in rearing certain species of wildlife for pets, for the sale of meat or for breed-and-release purposes throughout the year; allow for the granting of a special firearm licences for hunting only, and when the hunting season is closed, all firearms under that special licence should be lodged in a police station or some other approved place. As such, persons who do not possess that special firearm licence should not be caught hunting or in the forest with their firearm without reasonable cause.

I encourage the authorities to consider that stricter controls on law-abiding citizens will allow for more manoeuvrability and bounty for criminals.

Richard Smith

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