Several conservation and environmental groups have come out in support of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries’ Honorary Game Warden (HGW) Programme. The HGW Programme empowers volunteers with the same powers as Game Wardens under the Conservation of Wildlife Act and related legislation. In January 2023, three hundred and ninety-six (396) honorary game wardens were officially appointed via Gazette as outlined in the Conservation of Wildlife Act. Since then, the Ministry has been distributing letters of appointment and continues to conduct training with the new volunteers.
Over this weekend, Senator the Honourable Kazim Hosein, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, delivered letters of appointment to one hundred and thirty-five (135) volunteers at distribution ceremonies at the San Fernando Hill. In his address, the Minister stated, “As Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, one of my major responsibilities is Wildlife Conservation and protection. As guardians of our nation’s conservation efforts, your role is crucial to the agriculture sector and the modern hunting culture as it provides an added level of enforcement against poachers and persons who commit wildlife offences and infractions. I hope you will approach this role with the utmost professionalism, dedication, and respect for the wildlife and natural resources you are entrusted to protect.”
The programme has received high praise from citizens and several groups, including the Grande Riviere Nature Tour Guide Association and Nature Seekers.
Michael Lee, VP TT Hunters Association, has been a part of the programme for many years. He described his time with the HGW Programme as “one of personal development.” However, he described the programme as essential. “Game wardens can’t do it alone, and now that the season is coming to a close, we need to be even more vigilant and strengthen our monitoring and enforcement.”
Krishendath Goorcharan, a Conservationist who addressed the audience on Sunday, said he chose to return to the programme because he understood its impact. He recounted an incident in which a citizen was charged $ 33000 TTD by the courts for attempting to smuggle illegal birds, “Without this badge, we could not do this.” Goorcharan said it was his “patriotic duty” to serve in this programme: “We need to protect our ecosystem. Too many animals are at risk of being classified as endangered and we need to reverse this trend.”
The Grande Riviere Nature Tour Guide Association is an entity which manages one of Trinidad’s three prohibited sea turtle nesting sites. Kevin Mohommed, a representative of the Association, described the programme as essential and beneficial to his members, saying it will help enforce the State’s policy. “Hundreds of visitors annually show up in Grande Riviere without permits to enter the site. As citizens, we have no real authority to enforce the policy if a visitor chooses to give trouble. It is only through this programme that we can have discussions on a different level.”
Kyle Mitchell, Vice President of Nature Seekers, said, “I am delighted to see the Honorary Game Warden programme operating again as it facilitates the placement of wardens in almost every community or region of the country. This programme shows that we are moving from reactive to proactive as we protect our environment.”
The Ministry will continue distributing letters of appointment and ID badges to volunteers over the next month. For more information on this programme and how you can assist, please email email@example.com