In light of clear evidence last week of poaching in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) today accepted a proposal from Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat to fast-track the placement of the Scarlet Ibis on its list of environmentally sensitive species (ESS) following public consultation, and to take steps to declare the Caroni Bird Sanctuary an environmentally sensitive area (ESA). These two initiatives will strengthen protections for the national bird and other birds, and significantly increase the penalties for poaching the Scarlet Ibis.
“The mandatory 30-day period for public consultation will be announced shortly. In line with what I said needs to be done, once declared an ESS, the fine for poaching the Scarlet Ibis would be $100,000 — that is one hundred times the existing fine — with the possibility of up to 2 years’ imprisonment,” Minister Rambharat said in a post on his official Facebook page early Tuesday.
ESS and ESA designation, which the EMA is able to assign, by law, to plants, animals and ecologically important areas, adds another layer of protection for the prodigious Scarlet Ibis and its mangrove nesting place, the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, where there has been an uptick, recently, in reports of poaching and illegal activity.
Just two weeks ago, game wardens of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, on patrol in the sanctuary, arrested three men after they were found with Ibis carcasses.
Without ESS designation, poachers face fines of just $1,000 or, in default, are liable to be sent to jail for three months. That does little to stop them from targeting the Scarlet Ibis to meet demand in the lucrative wild meat business.
To combat the problem, Minister Rambharat has for months pursued interagency cooperation with various agencies including law enforcement and environmental management officials.
He credits those discussions with producing the agreement with the EMA to have the Scarlet Ibis join a list of 10 other environmentally sensitive species that includes the manatee and leatherback turtle.
“Apart from jail time and increased fines, this agreement also opens the door to joint patrols of the Caroni Bird Sanctuary by the Ministry’s game wardens and the EMA’s environmental police unit,” Rambharat said.
In the months ahead, other ministry initiatives will also likely help in the fight against poaching and slow the plunder of the prized Scarlet Ibis.
They include a partnership with the Zoological Society that would see an additional patrol vessel in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, collaboration with the police, the Army and the Coast Guard to ramp up law enforcement in the area, and steps to have game warden vacancies filled by the Public Service Commission.