Mere days away from Independence, celebrated environmentalist, Molly Gaskin, is pleading with the nation to stop killing the national bird, the Scarlet Ibis.
The president of the Point-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust in a strongly-worded letter called for more game wardens to stop what she described as this “abomination”.
From as early as May this year there were reports of poachers haunting the country’s national bird. After a number of reports, three men were arrested on August 14 by game wardens after they were found in possession of the dismembered national bird. They were subsequently charged with hunting at the protected site (the Caroni Bird Sanctuary) and being in possession of the protected/prohibited animal.
In the letter issued to the media, Gaskin said, “We hunt, we kill and we eat! Our National Bird! We celebrate Independence, Republic Day, Holidays!!Do we know, understand, care what it all means? In the U S of A if you are caught with one ‘feather’ of their National Bird, you can be jailed and fined heavily. Have we no pride at all in ourselves, our country in what we are supposed to stand for?!”
She added that years ago the Wild Fowl Trust along with other NGOs spearheaded a drive to have the country’s national bird made a protected species. “We succeeded. We appealed then, as we appeal now for help for the Forestry/ Wildlife Division for more licensed and properly armed game wardens to patrol and protect our valuable wetlands, forests and their species. There are just 11 men, if so many now, to patrol and protect all of Trinidad and Tobago. Are we joking?!Let us stop this abomination now.’ Let us take more pride in ourselves. Stop the killing of our Scarlet Ibis. Stop the killing of our ‘National Bird’.”
The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has since started the process of appointing the National Bird an environmentally sensitive species. Gaskin is the 1987 recipient of the Hummingbird Medal Gold for “loyal and devoted service” to the country.