THE EDITOR: It hardly seems possible that Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith has foregone an opportunity to praise his hard-working and honest officers, so I believe in this instance he must be unaware of the eco-warriors he has under his command in Tobago.
The forest tree balata (Manilkara bidentata) or gooseberry is protected by law, so valuable is it for its fruit and timber. A licence is required from the Forestry Department to harvest the balata/gooseberry fruit, just as a licence is required to harvest wild animals from the nation’s forests.
There are several balata fields in Tobago and normally every three-four years the trees bear a popular, highly-marketable fruit.
Two things have happened to one of the balata/gooseberry fields in Tobago this year.
The first is that it has been exposed to rapacious over-exploitation due to the mysterious 2019 paving of a secondary road to within several hundred metres of the field.
Balata/gooseberry harvesters (mostly otherwise unemployed young men) can easily bring saws to the field to butcher the trees for ease of harvesting.
This road was paved for absolutely no apparent reason as there is no activity in the area, agricultural or otherwise.
The second thing that happened this year as the balata/ gooseberry harvesting season has begun is that the police are patrolling that same road to speak to the harvesters,
imploring them to apply and pay for a licence and, far more importantly, instructing them not to “kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” or in this case the gooseberry, by chopping the trees wantonly.
Griffith has a definite reason to be pleased with his officers’ work and might even wish to create some sort of extinction rebellion task force.