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