|An Agoutie - one of the more popular wild animals hunted in T&T|
The government of Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday announced a two-year moratorium on hunting with effect from the 2013-2014 hunting season, which is scheduled to state on October 1, 2013.
Water resources and Environment Minister Ganga Singh made the announcement at the post cabinet media briefing.
He said the various agencies of the forestry division and his ministry would enforce the moratorium with the assistance of the national security ministry.
Singh said the decision to ban hunting for two years is because of over hunting, which is causing a dramatic reduction in wild life in the country's forests. He said the relevant stakeholders were consulted on the matter.
The minister said scientific data show that the population of animals such as agouti, lappe, red brocket deer, quenk and tatoo is declining. He said the evidence suggests that at this rate the animals would become extinct in 25 years.
He noted the statistics for hunting Agouti, Caged Birds, Deer, Lappe, Alligator/Lizard, Wild Hog (Quenk), Armadillo (Tattoo) and Water Fowl:
- 2010/2011 period 22,465 State Game Licenses were sold
- 2011/2012 - 18,990 were sold
- 2012/2013- 21,236 were sold
He also gave figures for number of animals removed from their habitat during the respective three hunting seasons:
- Agouti - 65,124
- Armadillo (Tattoo) - 13,092
- Lappe - 10,161
- Deer - 6,385
"If this is allowed to continue unabated, the wildlife populations can begin to collapse. We have to protect our babies in the wildlife. If this is allowed to continue unabated, the wildlife population will be exterminated," said stated.
Singh said in addition to the two-year moratorium the Office of Attorney General is currently reviewing the penalties and fines in the Conservation of Wildlife Act with a view to amending existing legislation.
He said the expectation is that the amendments would discourage individuals from contravening wildlife regulations including the moratorium on hunting.
Some of the changes include:
- A fine of $100,000 or 12 months imprisonment for hunting of any animal in a Game Sanctuary. This is up from a fine $1000 or 3 months imprisonment
- A fine of $100,000 or 12 months imprisonment for taking a dog into a game Sanctuary for the purpose of hunting. This is increased from $1000 or 3 months imprisonment
- A fine of $50,000 for each protected animal hunted without a Special Game License from the Chief Game Warden, up from $1000 or 3 months imprisonment
- A fine $50,000 or 12 months imprisonment and disqualification from holding a state game license, according to the discretion of a magistrate, for hunting on state lands contrary to the Conservation of Wildlife Act
- A fine of $100,000 or 24 months imprisonment (up from $2,000 or 6 months imprisonment) for hunting in the closed season without a special game license
The minister said during the two-year hunting ban the relevant authorities would conduct "a scientific appreciation of our existing wildlife and natural resources" that would help stakeholders to better develop the country's natural resources.
Singh also said his ministry would collaborate with the Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago, the University of the West Indies and the Ministry of Food Production "to undertake initiatives to develop model commercial wildlife farms and to provide capacity building support to encourage rural communities to establish wildlife farms in order to ensure that their livelihoods are not negatively impacted during the proposed two-year moratorium on hunting".
He said he would explore the possibility of getting funds for this project from the Green Fund.