NEW CAMPAIGN TO SAVE TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO’S BIODIVERSITY
Port of Spain, Trinidad, 21 November 2011 – An awareness campaign to stop the ecologically destructive wildlife trafficking will be launched today across Trinidad and Tobago. The campaign, which hopes to stem the tide of trafficked wildlife that is robbing many Caribbean regions of their rich biodiversity, is being launched by The Forestry Division, Ministry of Housing and the Environment, The Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago (www.zstt.org), and The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org).
“Much of the richness of Trinidad and Tobago exists in its wildlife and biodiversity but there are people who, whether they know it or not, are robbing Trinidadians and Tobagonians for the benefit of a few select people. IFAW believes these kinds of awareness raising campaigns play a vital role in halting biodiversity loss by reducing the illegal trade in wildlife and the horrendous environmental costs it incurs,” said Kelvin Alie, IFAW’s Program Director for Wildlife Trade.
Trinidad and Tobago is a known transit point due to its strategic geographic location connecting source countries such as Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela to consumer countries like Canada, the United States of America and even Europe. Illegal contraband includes drugs, arms and ammunition and human trafficking, but at the top are various wildlife species in trade primarily exotic birds, reptiles and primates.
Gupte Lutchmedial, President of the Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago, in explaining the Society’s involvement in this campaign, said, “The ZSTT has been extremely supportive of the Forestry Division’s wildlife enforcement activities, providing housing at the Zoo for seized animals and even bearing the costs to look after them while the matter is in court. Our involvement goes further in the instances where the seized wildlife are ordered to be returned to the wild as our Nature Park at Brigand Hill, Manzanilla provides a transitional location for their rehabilitation and subsequent release.”
Sites being targeted for the campaign are the two international airports in Trinidad and Tobago, the three major sea ports in the capital cities of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Scarborough, Tobago and in Cedros/Icacos, south-west Trinidad, Yacht destinations in Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Charlotteville, Tobago, oil tanker ports in Point Lisas and Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinidad, and the West and South Coasts of Trinidad.
The Caribbean is rich in biodiversity and home to many endangered and threatened species such as parrots, snakes and amphibians. However, the illegal and unsustainable trade in wildlife is a major threat to this irreplaceable biodiversity. Many species are harvested to supply the global demand for exotic pets, meat and luxury goods.
Antony Ramnarine, Conservator of Forests and Chief Game Warden, said, “The illegal trade in wildlife represents a serious threat to the survival of many endangered species both globally and in the Caribbean. The financial cost of the illegal wildlife trade runs into billions of dollars and its environmental costs are immeasurable.” He further added, “The Forestry Division is pleased to be part of this campaign as we are determined to employ whatever strategies we can to eliminate the illegal wildlife trade.”