The Wildlife Association of Tobago is moving apace to educate and sensitise the public, and hunters, on the need to conserve and protect wildlife in Tobago.
One of its first initiatives, a wildlife exhibition at the Gulf City mall, Lowlands last Friday showcased different types of wild life on the island including iguana, snakes and parrots, as well as demonstrating proper hunting practices.
The Association’s president, Lyndon Roberts, said the exhibition was geared towards educating the public and to “give some of the school children the opportunity to learn about Tobago’s wildlife.”
It also targeted hunters particularly, to inform them about the importance of “hunting smart” to prevent the extinction of wildlife on the island, he said.
“Right now in Tobago, we are having a problem with over- hunting especially with iguanas; hunters shooting anything now,” Roberts said.
“We have some iguanas to show the proper size of iguanas that should be hunted and hopefully this will persuade them to leave the younger ones and allow them to grow.
“What we were trying to do this year is a breed and release programme where we breed iguanas in captivity. What we haven’t been able to do is (organise) a proper record of how many young ones we are breeding,” he said.
“Tobagonians eat a lot of wild meats because of the festivals, it’s almost every weekend they hunt. Wild meat is always on the menu. We can’t take away the guns but if we breed and release the wild life, we are hoping it will help with preventing low population of iguanas.
“We still have a lot of agouti in Tobago but the iguanas are under threat through over hunting. Iguanas are easier to catch, they come out more in the day, unlike the tattoo that comes out in the night in the bush. And iguanas are wandering more in public domain
“I would love for hunters to understand that the wildlife is not infinite. If they continue to carelessly hunt we will eventually face some problems in the future. Tobago is a small island and
we could only tolerate the careless hunting for so long until there are no more animals to hunt,” he said.
Roberts said though closing the hunting season was expected to protect species at its most vulnerable times or during breeding season, persons do break the law and continue to hunt, and also abuse privileges granted when the season re-opens.
The Association plans to do some school tours now school has reopened and host other initiatives to raise awareness and educate people on correct hunting practices.
“We usually do an exhibition during the annual World Food Day but we decided to do something earlier also,” he said.
“We planned to do a photography competition for World Food Day this year but right now, according to premature information, we are not even sure we would be having a World Food Day in Tobago this year. I spoke to a game warden and I understand that because of the cut backs (in finances) this year, it is unsure if the event will still be hosted. Even if it is hosted there is expected to have some changes in the format,” he said.