Ganga Singh: Save our wildlife
By ANDRE BAGOO Friday, September 20 2013
click on pic to zoom in
SAVE OUR WILDLIFE: Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh, at yesterday's post Cabinet press briefing at the Office of the Prime ...
DEPLETION of local wildlife due to hunting has reached “alarming” proportions, Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh said yesterday as he outlined startling figures showing how many animals are removed from their natural habitats annually.
At a post-Cabinet press briefing, Singh defended his decision to invoke his statutory powers to impose a two-year hunting moratorium through the passing of a regulation, with effect on October 1.
“In order to address this alarming situation, which the current best scientific information has indicated could lead to the total loss of our national wildlife resources; there is a critical need to curtail the hunting pressure on game species,” the minister said. “It is against this context that the Government has developed an integrated approach to addressing the unsustainable harvesting of wildlife resources.”
While the two-year moratorium will no doubt mean many persons looking forward to their ritual of feasting on wild meat for Christmas could face disappointment, Singh did say Government was considering alternate supply options to satisfy the local palette.
“I don’t want to sound like Scrooge,” Singh joked. “That option of importing wild meat is something that ought to be explored to alleviate the current levels of depletion.”
According to Singh, animals typically hunted include agoutis, deer, birds, lappe, wild hog, tattoo (armadillo); water fowl; alligator (caiman) and lizards. In the period 2010/2011, 41,393 animals were killed including in the nation’s verdant forests and special reserves. This declined to 39,648 in 2011/2012. However an increase of almost 50 percent was recorded for 2012/2013 with the figure moving to 59,516. (SEE BOX.)
“Some have argued that the large amount of animals being caught shows there is no negative pressure from hunting,” Singh said. “It must be carefully noted however that as the number of hunters or hunting effort increases in a common resource, the number of animals captured will increase including the immature or juvenile animals in the population.
“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.”
Singh noted some University of the West Indies and University of Wisconsin findings in the 1990s estimated the annual take per hunter at 15 percent per year, meaning all indicators point to the wildlife being over-exploited.
For the period 1990 to 1993, Singh said, “annual take per hunter fell over the four years, suggesting that the populations of these game mammals were declining at about 15 percent per annum. The University scientists also concluded that such sustained rates of decline would lead to local extinction of these populations within 25 years. Moreover, what is even more alarming is that this rate of over harvest does not include the unreported take by unlicensed subsistence hunters or commercial poachers.”
In 2007, Singh said, the densities of five game mammals were found to be three to ten times lower than comparable habitats in what are supposed to be wildlife sanctuaries.
The Minister said the records of the Forestry Division indicate that during the 2010/2011 period 22,465 State game licenses were sold, in 2011/2012 some 18,990 were sold and in 2012/2013 some 21,236 were sold.
The two-year moratorium will be enforced by the various agencies and the Forestry Division of the Ministry of the Environmental and Water Resources with assistance from the Ministry of National Security. Addressing questions from reporters, Singh said WASA police; EMA police; Forest Rangers, 180 honorary game wardens and even the Defence Force would also be involved in the efforts which will be made to enforce the ban. He said 407 illegal hunting camps on State lands have been identified.
“That is unacceptable,” Singh said. He noted the camps even posed risks from a National Security perspective since they played a role in the period when kidnapings for ransom were being carried out in the 2000s.
Singh said the Ministry of the Attorney General was in the process of planning legislative measures to bolster current offences. For example, the fine for hunting of any animal in a game sanctuary will increase from $1,000 or three months imprisonment to $100,000 or 12 months imprisonment; for taking a dog into a game sanctuary for the purpose of hunting from $1,000 or three months imprisonment to $100,000 or 12 months imprisonment. Hunting in the closed season without a special game license is to be raised from $2,000 or six months imprisonment to $100,000 or 24 months imprisonment.