TAKEN AWAY: Mark Mitchell, left, is escorted to the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court yesterday. —Photo: INNIS FRANCIS

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Birds were payment for fishes, says farmer

By PLEASANTVILLE \\\\\ Nikita Braxton-Benjamin nikita.braxton@trinidadexpress.com

A FISH FARMER yesterday told the court that the 50 protected birds found at his home were payment from customers for tropical fishes.

Mark Mitchell said we were unaware he needed permits to have the birds, some of which had been in the family for years.

Mitchell, 37, of Pleasantville, was fined $7,500 — $150 on each charge of having 41 brown throated parakeets, five rose headed parakeets, two green winged macaws and a yellow shouldered parrot. They were found in wire cages in a covered area connected to his house.

“In the living room of the main building... there was also a card board box which contained an immature scarlet macaw,” police prosecutor Sgt Chanardath Jhilmit said yesterday in the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court.

Officers had gone to Mitchell’s Pleasantville home with a search warrant around 9.30 p.m. last Saturday.

Mitchell was charged by estate constable and acting Game Warden II Stanley Maraj for having the protected birds in captivity without a permit giving him the authority.

Defence attorney Shastri Parsad said his client repaired photocopiers and also bred and reared tropical fishes to support his family.

“He does not sell birds, he deals with fishes... It (having the birds) is not done for commercial or economic gain or benefit,” Parsad said.

He told the court Mitchell would have gotten the birds from people to off-set payment for the tropical fishes.

The attorney said apart from the 41 brown throated parakeets which Mitchell received the evening prior to search warrant being executed at his house, he had the other birds in the family for over two years.

Parsad said one of the birds was kept in a card board box for insulation and “was not meant as cruelty toward the bird.” 

The 50 birds which were in four cages and the box were kept in the basement of the court and were seen by Magistrate Natalie Diop during the hearing.

The magistrate told Mitchell that before engaging in business, he should educate himself.

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse... By way of trading makes it no less reprehensible,” she said.

Mitchell was fined a total of $7,500. In default of paying the money in a day, he will serve ten days hard labour.

The birds were handed over to the Forestry Division.

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