The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MALF) is taking steps to combat the illegal wildlife trade in Trinidad and Tobago.
Earlier today (11th February 2023), the Forestry Division (Wildlife Section) of the MALF initiated a training programme for Honorary Game Wardens; 68 of whom received their letters of appointment from Senator the Honorable Kazim Hosein, Minister of Agriculture Land and Fisheries.
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. The training and delivery of appointment letters will continue during the month of February.
Honorary Game Wardens are volunteers who are conferred with the same powers as Game Wardens; empowered under the Conservation of Wildlife Act and related legislation.
While speaking at the appointment ceremony at Caroni Bird Sanctuary this morning, Minister Hosein commended the volunteers hailing their decision to serve as a patriotic act saying, “service to man is service to God.” He reminded the volunteers that the preservation of the ecosystem is paramount for future generations: “Your role as guardians of our nation’s conservation efforts 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.”
Earlier this week, the Minster reminded the nation that the illegal trade of wildlife would not be tolerated following the seizure of exotic animals by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Force. The Minister reiterated to the audience that these animals might bring diseases and viral infections into the shores, which may have disastrous effects on the environment and also the prices at the market.
Today, Minister Hosein reminded the volunteers that they now form part of the security apparatus of this country, and their roles are even more crucial now than ever. He said: “The importation of illegal animals into this country is linked to a larger criminal enterprise. These boats are not transporting animals alone but other illegal items which fuel and fund the criminal enterprise of this country. Your service is vital in combating these crimes.”
There are currently 46 Game Wardens employed with MALF and the Minister said these appointments would strengthen the unit’s capabilities. The last batch of Honorary Game Wardens was appointed in 2016 with some 130 citizens receiving their letters of appointment for one year.