Friday, February 23, 2018

‘Batman’ missing

Owner claims $40,000 bird gone after police raid


CHECKING: Zoological Society president Gupte Lutchmedial, second from right, and staff members at the Emperor Valley Zoo take count of the birdcages yesterday at the zoo in St Ann’s, Port of Spain. —Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

Mark Fraser

“Where is Batman?”

That is the question asked by Nimal Mahadeo, a bird trainer, whose more than 130 exotic pet birds were seized on Friday by police. 

Batman is Mahadeo’s prized bull finch, a champion whistler worth almost $40,000, and, Mahadeo said, allegedly missing after the birds were seized and taken into police custody. 

On Friday police officers from the Northern Division Task Force executed a warrant to search Mahadeo’s Barataria home looking for arms and ammunition; instead, they found 108 bull finches; 15 twa twas; two cockatiels and seven red back parrots. 

The animals had their cages tagged by the police as evidence, and were taken to the Emperor Valley Zoo for specialised care until Mahadeo was charged and sentenced. 

Mahadeo had on Friday told officers he had so many birds because he intended to open a pet shop; yesterday when the Express spoke with him outside the zoo, where he came to reclaim his animals, he said he had the birds “recreationally” and entered them in whistling competitions. He said he was not nor was he ever a bird breeder. The birds, he said, he acquired from pet shops. 

He said he was not aware that he needed licences to keep the animals.

At the discretion of game warden Nicholas Leith, instead of having to go to court, Mahadeo was ordered to pay $4,400 in fines and the birds were allowed to be released back to him.

 However, because of his unruly and almost violent behaviour, Leith, who had come to release the birds to him, refused because the situation had become too volatile and preferred to have extra security rather than deal with Mahadeo by himself, after Mahadeo began shouting and using obscenities towards Leith. Up to press time the birds remained at the zoo.

Mahadeo, however, claimed that police seized 147 birds; the missing 15, he said, included Batman. 

Zoo curator Nirmal Bipta and Zoological Society president Gupte Lutchmedial, however, said their records match those of the police, and no animals have gone missing or died while in the care of zoo staff. 

Leith added that since the Wildlife Conservation Act was amended last year (to allow for the hunting moratorium) these exotic birds, which were previously allowed to be kept as pets, were now listed as a protected species and required a special licence to own in captivity.