The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has initiated the process to designate the Scarlet Ibis as an Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS). In a release, the EMA said it was asked by Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat and Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis to expedite this initiative in light of the increased poaching incidents at the Caroni Swamp which is threatening the species.
“This undertaking would signal being given to the protection of this symbol of our national pride, a major tourist attraction and source of livelihoods for tour-operators,” the EMA said.
Last week, three men were held in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary with ibis parts by game wardens. They were charged under the Conservation of Wildlife Act for hunting a protected species. The EMA said the fines they would face were “woefully inadequate”. The current fines are $1,000 or, in default, are liable to be sent to jail for three months.
The penalty or offences committed against an ESS is a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for two years. This is one hundred times the existing penalty which the EMA says is the punitive measure needed as part of enforcement measures to prevent the decimation of the Scarlet Ibis in the Caroni Swamp.
As an additional measure, the EMA is also examining the increased protection of the Caroni Swamp, habitat for the Scarlet Ibis by designating it as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) under the Rules established in 2001. The EMA said although the Caroni Swamp is already protected through its designation as a Ramsar Site of International Importance (in 1993) and as a Prohibited Area under the Forests Act, the ESA designation would provide additional protection and benefits.
In a release, the Ministry of Agriculture Land & Fisheries said to combat the problem, Rambharat pursued interagency cooperation with various agencies including law enforcement and environmental management officials.
“Apart from jail time and increased fines, this agreement also opens the door to joint patrols of the Caroni Bird Sanctuary by the Ministry’s game wardens and the EMA’s environmental police unit,” Rambharat said.
The ministry said in the months ahead other initiatives will also likely help in the fight against poaching and slow the plunder of the prized Scarlet Ibis. These include a partnership with the Zoological Society that would see an additional patrol vessel in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, collaboration with the police, the Army and the Coast Guard to ramp up law enforcement in the area, and steps to have game warden vacancies filled by the Public Service Commission.