‘No joke’: Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh, right, talks with Stephen Broadbridge, left, of the Trinidad and Tobago Incoming Tour Operators Association, and Papa Bois Conservation director Marc deVerteuil following a media update on the two-year moratorium on hunting, held at Caroni Bird Sanctuary yesterday. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES
‘Citizens must cooperate’
Indefinite hunting ban not out of the question...
THE severe depletion of local wildlife could lead to hunting being outlawed indefinitely, Water Resources and Environment Minister Ganga Singh hinted yesterday.
Singh said he is now keeping an open mind to the possibility, dependent on a wildlife stock survey to be conducted by the University of the West Indies and personnel from the University of Wisconsin in the United States, set to begin in the dry season, from January 1.
Singh said the ministry and the Forestry Division have received return forms from hunters that have allowed some tally of current stocks. Along with further consultation with other users of national forests and reserves, it has become clear local wildlife is at a frighteningly low ebb.
He said he has also been told the return forms filled out by hunters “lack integrity”, and stocks could, in fact, be worse off than thought.
Singh was speaking at a media update on the moratorium, held at Caroni Bird Sanctuary.
Asked how the ministry intends to ensure recovery efforts over the next two years are not wiped out after the ban is lifted, Singh replied: “There will be measures that will change the way we hunt, if hunting is permissible at all.”
On whether he was entertaining an indefinite suspension, Singh said: “I think that it is the baseline survey that will help me make any decision in that area.” He said the survey will be made public and consultation will be held with all stakeholders.
In the meantime, Singh sought to make it clear his ministry was not joking around with the two-year moratorium, announced two weeks ago, which has drawn criticism from a number of hunting groups that have had their sport and livelihood taken away.
With the ban has come stiffer fines for anyone caught breaking it. Some changes include a fine of $100,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment for hunting of any animal in a game sanctuary—up from a fine of $1,000 or three months’ imprisonment.
A fine of $100,000 or 24 months’ imprisonment (up from $2,000 or six months’ imprisonment) has also been proposed for hunting in the closed season.
Singh said implementation of the fines is being attended to by the Office of the Attorney General.
Along with Mervyn Pierre of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) security services and Conservator of Forests Johnny Seepersad, Singh rolled out a plan to keep a close eye on the animals.
For patrolling purposes, the country has been divided into eight sections, and up to 15 game wardens and/or honorary game wardens can be expected on duty at any given time, Pierre said.
With 180 honorary game wardens to draw on, the ministry will also call on service from WASA estate police and its private security, estate police from the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) and Petrotrin estate police (for the patrolling of forest reserves in South Trinidad).
Singh said these options were to be used to complement the ongoing work of the Police Service and Defence Force.
“We are very aggressive about the enforcement of this moratorium and we are calling on the citizenry to cooperate,” Singh said, adding that a hotline where anonymous information can be relayed will be in place by the end of this week.
He also clarified for anyone in doubt that the moratorium means no hunting whatsoever, even on private lands.
Last week, hunting groups protested the ban outside the Forestry Division’s Long Circular office and promised if licences were not issued by Monday—when the usual deadline would have passed had there been no moratorium—hunters would take to private lands for the sake of sport and profession.
Singh said he intends to engage those hunters who depend on “wildmeat” for a living and ensure they are able to move on to a different profession.
Buddie Miller, delegate for external communication for the Confederation of Hunters Association for Conservation of Trinidad and Tobago, said the ban will only increase lawlessness and confusion amongst hunters.
Several hunting groups intend to challenge the ban in court.