EMPEROR Valley Zoo welfare officer and Zoological Society member Kimberly Howai made a public appeal on Sunday for no fireworks displays to be held close to the Emperor Valley Zoo in Port of Spain during any of the upcoming public holidays.
She made this appeal in a statement on behalf of the society and its position on the draft Summary Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2022 (or Fireworks Bill).
At a virtual consultation on the bill last Friday, Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal said the bill is not law as yet.
"It is business as usual, unfortunately, as it relates to the purchase and use of fireworks."
But she said Government hoped citizens were responsible and "know even in the absence of law and regulations, people have to take personal responsibility."
Howai said the society remained concerned about people discharging fireworks close to the zoo.
While the draft bill suggested that no fireworks be discharged within half a mile of zoos, hospitals, homes for the elderly or farms where animals are reared, Howai said, "From our experience a half mile is not far enough for the types of animals we house at the zoo."
She recalled that the last fireworks display at the Queen's Park Savannah in 2019 resulted in the death of one of the zoo's kangaroos and various captive birds.
"Even though a lot of effort is made in having our staff there in the past to help keep the animals calm, this measure can only go so far as we have had instances of animals becoming startled, running into barriers and being injured."
Howai also said, after the fireworks display in 2019 zoo staff found many wild birds near the zoo either dead or injured as a result of the fireworks.
"Many of these birds live and roost in the trees in the surrounding area."
The society had a representative at last week's virtual consultation.
While the bill was a step in the right direction, Howai reiterated the society's concern about proper regulations being put in place for fireworks and explosive displays.
In an open letter to Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, Animals 360 founder Roger Marshall described the virtual consultation as a sham.
Until the new law is passed, Marshall urged Armour to take a note to Cabinet to direct the relevant government minister to immediately prescribe designated times, dates and locations for the safe discharge of fireworks for upcoming festivities.
He recommended that the sale, import and use of fireworks to or by the general public be banned. He lamented that after 19 years, nothing has been done to protect animals, people and property from the harmful effects of fireworks.
Animal-rights activist and Newsday columnist Elspeth Duncan agreed with Marshall. She said groups such as Animals Alive and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA) were invited to the consultation but were unable to participate in it.