Chief Game Warden Denny Dipchansingh said the illicit trade in wildlife in TT remains a concern for the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries.
He was responding to a release from the TT Manufacturers' Association which said the wildlife trafficking problem is a major issue in TT and is considered one of the most lucrative forms of illicit international trade.
The release also highlighted statements by co-founder of the El Socorro Centre for Wildlife Conservation Ricardo Meade about the illegal trade in monkeys and the overhunting of the blue and gold macaw.
Meade also expressed displeasure at “the lackadaisical approach from the protective arms who do not enforce the laws and called on the National Security Ministry to focus on the illegal wildlife trade before an animal or bird is smuggled into the country with a contagious disease and there is contamination.”
In an e-mail conversation with the Newsday, Dipchansingh said the major impacts of the illicit wildlife trade include importing pests and diseases into the country, as well as wildlife carcasses that may not be fit for human consumption, causing serious health problems.
He said several measures have been put into place to deal with these problems. These included joint patrols and inspections by forest officers, game wardens and officers from the National Security Ministry.
“Once perpetrators are found in breach of the Conservation of Wildlife Act (CWA), charges are laid against them. We continuously monitor pet shops, as this is where the sales take place. We do educational drives and public awareness at all levels. We carry out increased patrols outside of the normal working hours to prevent further breaches to the CWA.”
He said the Forestry Division had done training programmes for the police, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), and other state agencies on wildlife enforcement and education, with assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Dipchansingh said additional measures which would greatly help the situation would be: filling 28 vacancies, as there are currently only 14 game wardens employed; reinstating the honorary game warden programme to include the protective services such as the Defence Force and Coast Guard so they become empowered under the CWA; and additional enforcement training and firearms training for game wardens.
Dipchansingh said it should be noted that the ministry is not responsible for the control of TT’s borders, but the illegal wildlife trade is linked to several other illegal trade activities that are under the control of the National Security Ministry.
While game wardens and forest officers of the Forestry Division are mandated to enforce the CWA, the police are also empowered to charge for offences under this act.
Rules in force:
The Forestry Division wishes to remind the public that the Conservation of Wildlife Regulations have been amended in relation to possession and sale of wild meat and have been in effect since October 1. So no one must have in his possession all or part of an animal, or serve, buy, sell, offer, advertise for sale the carcass or meat, frozen, fresh, cooked or otherwise any animal referred to in the third schedule of the Conservation of Wild Life Act regulations. This includes agouti, tatou, lappe, deer and quenk.