Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat is urging citizens not to eat illegally imported wild meat following one of the largest seizures in recent years.“We ask them to be conscious and to be careful.”
Rambharat in a Facebook post on Wednesday reported that law enforcement intercepted a vessel in Cedros and seized a large amount of wild meat being brought into the country illegally.
Customs and Excise officers made the find while on patrol at Galfa Beach when they discovered a group of men offloading crocus bags from a pirogue. The men escaped but officers found 1,812 pounds worth of wild meat, including six deers, six wild hogs, 13 tatous, 13 lappes, and 252 agoutis.
Rambharat, speaking with Newsday in a telephone interview, said the retail value is about $150,000 and they believe it came from Venezuela due to both countries having similar species. On the perpetrators, Rambharat said he does not have any information on whether they were eventually caught but the police can do tracing of the boat to find the owner. He said it was a rare occasion that so much wild meat was intercepted.
“In my time and far as I remember it is the biggest cargo intercepted. It will put a significant dent into some of what is happening and make the public more alert when they see how the meat is handled.”
He said the meat is not chilled or frozen but just cleaned and put into crocus bags. He added we have no idea how long the animals were slaughtered and under what conditions.
“And no idea what diseases they may have been carrying.”
He believes the upsurge of the illegal importation of wild meat came with moratorium on hunting under the previous administration.
He reported they get information occasionally about the entry and availability of illegal wild meat.
Rambharat said they do not allow for importation of wild meat because they have a closed and open season hunting season - October 1st to February 28. He explained it would be very difficult to regulate the importation of meat during the closed season.
“We run the risk of people serving or having wild meat and saying they bought it.”
He also said because of the way wild meat was caught and sold in other countries it was very difficult to manage the entry of diseases.
“We have a short open season and believe it is sufficient time for people with interest in wild meat to consume it.”
He said that there are supermarkets and other retailers and meat shops that offer wild meat for sale.
“We ask consumers, people who buy wild meat, to buy from trusted sources. Known hunters. And understand there is a risk that someone try to sell meat caught and transported and kept in a way that is a risk to your health.”