There will be no wild meat for Christmas!
Hunters who may want to take a chance and hunt wildlife for the Christmas season will face heavy fines and even jail time if they so do.
More than 140,000 wild animals were hunted and killed in Trinidad and Tobago over a three-year period and to protect them from going extinct, Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh yesterday announced a two-year ban on hunting.
And he has moved to drastically increase the fines and jail time for hunting.
The ban will officially begin on October 1.
Singh, speaking at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, described the situation as alarming.
He provided figures tabulated from hunting data forms which showed that some 140,557 of agouti, deer, lappe, wild hog, armadillo (tattoo), water fowl, alligator and other species were hunted over the past three years.
In an attempt to ensure that wildlife was not hunted during the next two years, Singh disclosed a number of increased fines and jail terms under the Conservation of Wildlife Act, which was being reviewed by the Office of the Attorney General.
Singh noted that the current fines and penalty regime has done little to deter the illegal activities toward wildlife resource.
Some of the fine increases include:
The fine for hunting of any animal in a Game Sanctuary has increased from $1,000 or three months’ imprisonment to $100,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment.
The fine for taking a dog into a Game Sanctuary for the purpose of hunting has been raised from $1,000 or three months’ imprisonment to $100,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment;
The fine for hunting a protected animal without a Special Game Licence from the Chief Game Warden has been raised from $1,000 or three months’ imprisonment to $50,000 for “each animal”;
The fine for being found on State lands under circumstances of hunting any second schedule animal under the Conservation of Wildlife Act has been raised from $400 or three months’ imprisonment and disqualification from holding a state game licence as the magistrate sees fit to $50,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment and disqualification from holding a state game licence as the magistrate sees fit;
The fine for carrying into State lands any gun or weapon or device capable of being used to hunt any second schedule animal under the Conservation of Wildlife Act has been raised from $400 or three months’ imprisonment and disqualification from holding a state game licence as the magistrate sees fit to $5,000 or six months’ imprisonment and disqualification from holding a state game licence as the magistrate sees fit;
Hunting in the closed season without a special game licence and not under the special conditions to exercise dogs in lands other than Forest Reserves and Game Sanctuaries has been raised from $2,000 or six months’ imprisonment to $100,000 or 24 months’ imprisonment.
Singh said he was aware of the hunting lobby—which said “No hunting, no vote” at a recent protest—but stressed that the right thing must be done.
“Let me assure all citizens that these decisions are in the national interest and will certainly aid in the conservation of our wildlife resources for future generations. We are protecting the wildlife for the future. We will not shirk from our responsibility; we will continue to do the right thing.”
Singh said that research has found that there was an unfortunate depletion of this country’s wildlife resources.
He said the data analysis from the Mandatory Hunting Return Data Forms, conducted by the University of the West Indies (UWI) and University of Wisconsin for the 1990-1993 hunting seasons, revealed that the catch-hunting effort relationships of the agouti, lappe, red brocket deer, quenk and tattoo had a consistent negative relationship, suggesting that the populations of these animals were being over-exploited.
Singh added that annual take per hunter fell over the four years, suggesting that the populations of these game mammals were declining at about 15 per cent per annum.
“The university scientists also concluded that such sustained rates of decline would lead to local extinction of these populations within 25 years. Moreover, what is even more alarming is that this rate of overharvest does not include the unreported take by unlicensed subsistence hunters or commercial poachers.”
Singh noted that since this research was conducted, the Forestry Division has indicated that there has been a steady increase in annual hunting permit sales.
He said the records of the Forestry Division indicated that during the 2010-2011 period 22,465 State Game Licenses were sold; in 2011-2012, 18,990 were sold; and in 2012-2013, 21,236 were sold.