By Sascha Wilson
While hunting associations are happy that the two-year hunting moratorium will be lifted in October, they are concerned that government has not addressed the critical problem of poaching.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar the announcement at a political meeting at Kanhai Presbyterian Primary School, Barrackpore, on Monday night.
She said the national wildlife survey was still in progress, but the ban could now be lifted.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Winston Nanan, assistant chairman of the Confederation of Hunters Associations for Conservation of T&T, said the announcement came as no surprise to him. Nanan said he expected that the government would lift the ban because it was an election year.
Nanan said his association was not so much against the ban but the manner in which Environment Minister Ganga Singh implemented the ban without having proper dialogue and consultation with the hunting groups.
He insisted that bona fide hunters were not to blame for indiscriminate hunting.
“The impact on the environment coming from people who are poaching animals, not only during the season, but throughout the year they reaping animals left, right and centre. There are little or no patrols to police this because the forestry staff is so thin. The minister said that they will be introducing a patrol system using the regiment and the police but that never materialised. The poaching is rampant.”
He said hunters served as a deterrent to poaching.
“When you remove the hunters, poachers could do what they want. Hunters are also concerned about the environment and how the environment produces.”
Nanan suggested that government ensure a strong presence of game wardens in the forests.
He also said Forestry Division should be “friends” with the hunters so they could work in unison to stop indiscriminate hunting. “Hunters are the eyes and ears of the forest.”
When the announcement was made by Environment Minister Ganga Singh in 2013, hunters objected.
They claimed the ban was unfair and was being implemented without proper consultation.
Protests were held outside the Forestry Division and hunters threatened to withhold their votes which they claimed amounted to 100,000.
In their campaign against the ban, the hunters also stuck stickers on their vehicles which stated No Hunting, No Vote.
In addition, the Confederation of Hunters Associations for Conservation filed for judicial review challenging the minister’s decision. That matter is still before the High Court.
Poaching is the problem
Sharing similar concerns about the poaching issue, South Eastern Hunters Association president Bhola Singh said: “We are happy to have the season open back. We did not believe in the moratorium as we did not think it was necessary.” Singh said hunters were acting responsibly.
“Poaching is a serious problem. All persons who go into the forest to hunt during the closed season should be jailed. We don’t believe there is sufficient enforcement in those areas.”
Saying that the patrols were insufficient, he said: “They have to look at a more rigid monitoring system”. Singh said hunters were willing to work hand in hand with the Forestry Division to try to arrest the poaching problem.
“As a hunting association we conduct seminars and educate the public about the environment,”
He said the public was unaware of the significant contribution hunters make to the survival of wildlife.
“We are the ones who are always in the forest. Experience hunters can tell you when the monkeys are dying of yellow fever, when there is no water, whenever wild life is at risk.”
Singh said his hunting association assists in the decrease in illegal hunting through its educational outreach seminars.
No more unregulated hunting
Marc De Verteuil of the environmental group Papa Bois Conservation said they were hoping that the ban would have been extended beyond two years.
He, however, hoped the hunting industry would be properly regulated and monitored.
Commenting on the issue on the group’s Facebook page, De Verteuil said: “The animals had a break. Thank you Minister Ganga Singh for pushing this issue. It wouldn't have happened without the minister's support. We now hope that when hunting resumes it will be based on a scientific management plan. We cannot go back to the near unregulated hunting that took place in the past. We need quotas and tags. We need increased enforcement.”