Game Animals on Way to Extinction in Trinidad and Tobago

As part of an ongoing program called “Cleaning up the Mess,” discussing environmental destruction in Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Christopher Starr, zoologist, and senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies-St. Augustine, speaks about the excesses and unnecessarily destructive practices in hunting. Stating that he is not against hunting in principle, he proposes a limited hunting season to avoid overhunting and to allow the animal populations to survive. See excerpts with a link to the full article below:

Such hunting is not sustainable, and this is the situation we see in T&T today. Agoutis are a good case in point. About 5,000 licences to hunt agouti (and a similar number for four other game animals together) have been issued for this season. Formerly, a licensed hunter took about four or five agouti, on average, but the (legal) catch this season will be below that, and next year it will be still less. Agoutis [see photo below] have become uncommon.

 I often walk in the woods near my home in Caura, yet I commonly go a month without seeing even one. And in 18 years in Trinidad I have yet to see or hear a wild deer, lappe or quenk [wild hog-see photo above]. This is not as it should be. Agoutis should be common in our woods, yet unsustainable hunting has reduced them to a fraction of what the habitat could support. What has brought their numbers so low? 

The hunters’ associations will attempt to distract you by pointing to habitat loss. Habitat loss does make a difference, but to claim that it accounts for the increasing rarity of game animals is pure hypocrisy, like blaming the terrible death toll in Afghanistan on a bad harvest. There may have been bad harvests, but of course the real cause is bullets and bombs. The red brocket deer was exterminated from Tobago some years ago, and it wasn’t due to habitat loss. Rather, it was hunted to extinction. The other game animals have not yet suffered the same end-fate, but they are on their way. 

Is it within our capability to reverse this situation, bringing agoutis and other hunted animals back to their natural abundance? I believe it is, although it will require some serious rethinking. To begin with, our preposterous fetish for wild meat must be called into question. There is nothing magical about wild meat, and it is foolish to pretend otherwise. Once we realise this, we can start to think of wildlife as more valuable alive than dead. I hope the churches will take a lead in this. A trend toward eliminating wild meat from church socials would do much to diminish the profit from poaching, which in turn would be good for our wildlife. We must press the Government to get serious about existing environmental laws. Tell your Member of Parliament that the present careless attitude toward the national patrimony is unacceptable. 

Beyond this, two new legal measures are urgently needed. First, shorten the hunting season. The present five-month season is far beyond what is reasonable. It serves to make hunting unsustainable by reducing the time when game animals can recover their numbers. [. . .] Second, ban the commercial sale of wild meat. If wild meat cannot be a legal article of trade, its sale will be inhibited, making poaching less profitable. The future of our natural environment and its animals is uncertain, yet I am optimistic. As a long-time immigrant, I have learned to expect the people of Trinidad and Tobago to do the right things, once a problem is recognised. We needn’t ban hunting outright, but the present unsustainable way does far more harm than good.

For full article, see http://guardian.co.tt/news/general/2010/10/14/game-animals-way-extinction

13 thoughts on “Game Animals on Way to Extinction in Trinidad and Tobago

  1. i totally agree with you lystra our population has decreased alot because i am an ocassional hunter too. our animals are in maternity phase from late december. in my opinion, the season should be banned from dec. 31 in this way our population will get time to rebuild itself properly and our animals in tobago will be alive. trinidadians are not soft hearted when referring to wildlife they only focus on shooting and wildmeat lime! someone must do something ASAP!!!!!

  2. Yes, tourists come to Trinidad to see living animals, birds, trees and rivers. Not to see or eat dead ones. Thought the hunting season was limited to 2 months in Trini, not true? We need to also clean up the Oropouche River. Thanks

  3. “There is nothing magical about wild meat, and it is foolish to pretend otherwise. Once we realise this, we can start to think of wildlife as more valuable alive than dead.”

    True.

    After all, we won’t want Trinidad and Tobago to go the route of Rapa Nui. I’d like my children’s children to learn, teach and practice hunting skills as long as it’s viable and possible. No matter how short the hunting season.

    There are a number of feasible solutions to the low number of game animals. Some include one or two-year hunting moratoriums, breeding programmes, limiting number-of-animals-per-hunter, etc.

    We can have it all, if are prepared to think, share, adapt, adjust and accommodate.


    Trini Airguns
    http://www.airgunstt.blogspot.com/

  4. There is an immediate and urgent need for arly amendments to the Wildlife Conservation Act to provide for severe penalties to be imposed on persons found guilty of an offence against the Law. A Moratorium on Hunting in Trinidad and Tobago for Three to Five years is imperative to save the populations of Game Animals which remain. . During this period of NO HUNTING, a census of the Game Animals will be conducted. We must know the population of each species of our Game Animals which remains.
    Thereafter Hunting may be permitted for Three Months during each of the first two years with NO HUNTING being permitted during the Third Year .
    This should give the Forest Mammals time to build up their respective populations. REWARDS TO INFORMANTS Members of the public should be encouraged to give information to the Police or to the Wildlife Section on persons who are in possession of Trap Guns or who are setting Trap Guns or are in possession of “Wildmeat ” during the Closed Season.
    When a conviction is achieved as a result of information received, the Informant MUST remain anonymous and should be given a Monetary Reward from a Special Fund into which all fines have been deposited. A Monetary Reward for information which leads to a conviction will go a long way to reducing the incidents of Illegal Hunting. We must view the setting of Trap Guns as a threat not only to the lives of Forest Mammals but also as a threat to the lives of all Legitimate Forest users.including Woodcutters, Charcoal Makers, Forestry Officers, Hikers, Bird Watchers and Legal Hunters.

  5. When has killing become a game “game hunting, and hunting for sport” they have already destroyed our wild life, now they are killing their fellow humans.

  6. According to this source, 90,000 Agouti were killed outside of legal hunting (poached). Since there will be 5000 licenses sold, simple math says that legal hunting is not the problem. Further, if all hunting was made illegal, the animals woulld still dissapear. Only a well regulated and well maintained management program will sustain the population and this can include a reasonable season and limits. If poaching is not stopped, all that will have been accomplished is the ruination of the hunting, guiding travel etc. as an industry and yet another eco system wrecked.

    We faced the requirement in Michigan for limits and policing after years of unregulated hunting eliminated wild turkeys and nearly all deer. Our license fees have funded a massive surge in deer and imported turkey flocks have made this the state’s biggest success story. The state now sells about 60,000 turkey tags alone. The income from hunting tags, guns, amo, clothing, hotels, restaurants is major business.

  7. Something needs to be done in order to preserve the wild life for our future kids.What are we going to do when the animals area extinct? People of Trinidad needs to be educated on wild life preservation.

  8. Wildlife is all life forms which is not domesticated by man. There is an interrelationship with these life forms with the strong always in an advantageous position to the week. Man in this abundance of life considers himself the most powerful and believes he has been given the gift of god to destroy any all living things be there plants, animals or even man which obstructs his illusionary development. While we fantasize and believe we are to save all living things, it is clear that we are dependent on living things for our survival. Hunting historically have been the method of obtaining food, this was replaced by farming with the farm animals now genetically modified, they have become domesticated loosing all the natural instincts of survival in the wild. They are now “enslaved meat machines” converting man made feed into meat and reproducing ten fold than their relatives in the wild. Management of wildlife would always depend on the aspirations of the rich , influential and powerful. The poor rural folks would always be hounded out in the name of conservation, and would be made outlaws by the sprit but not the intent of the law.
    M. Bholasingh
    President
    South Eastern Hunters Association

  9. I am a hunter an I agree to the band that is on at the moment but it could have been Pland out a lot better because a lot of money has been spent but non the less the band is an will help a lot of our wild life population to come up,you must all so know that a lot of pouches are out there hunting an killing a lot of young animal’s to sell it must have a standardized weight class in which animals are caught

  10. In the USA when hunters catch game the amount an the weight of some animals is checked by authority. We should have a team of persons in place to check the amount of animals that each hunter catches an each individual permit should have a specific amount of that said animal to catch. We have the longest hunting season in the world. Many people say we can’t done the animals in the forest. Is these people for real>>>> Trinidad is a very small place with a few forest reserves. Many of the animals might go in the reserves to hide but they wont stay their all the time when they venture outside of that its all over . You cant train a dog to kill adult animals alone.. it is very sad for me to go places in the bush where I use to see deer,agouti and tattoo foot prints an sign every where now you don’t see not one sign. If this hunting in this country is not regulated in a proper manner it will be game over for our animals that we share our beloved country with.

  11. I support the band on sale of wild meat. I would like to also suggest that to have wild meat on one`s person that you should be in possession of a hunting permit as well and allow the charges to follow accordingly. Parties/Fetes advertising wild meat should also have permits to help curb the free movement of this seasonal harvest of a sustainable resource.

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