Acting on reports from gardeners and other villagers in Nariva that the red howler monkeys which frequent the area especially in Brigand Hill are being hunted illegally for their meat, the environmental organisation — Manatee Conservation Trust — convened a training session Friday last to mobilise concerned citizens to protect the remaining monkeys.
One of the sources, lamented to officials from the Forestry Division and the Trust, that at least two entire troops (about 30 monkeys) have been exterminated and it is not unusual to hear the gunshots ringing out through this quiet area. They are upset that such uncaring and illegal actions are being conducted by outsiders, but they are being blamed as the perpetrators.
It is worrisome, sources noted, that this illegal activity is taking place in lands that border the 400-acre Rehabilitation Facility of the Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago which is supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Gupte Lutchmedial, President of the ZSTT and local IFAW liaison, pledged to support the efforts of the Forestry Division to protect Nariva’s wildlife.
Wildlife Officer, David Boodoo who was invited by the Trust to share information on the Conservation of Wildlife Act, confirmed that the red howler monkey is a protected species and should not be hunted at any time and any place. He stated, “This area is part of the Nariva Swamp, which is known to harbour the two indigenous species of monkeys in Trinidad. The wider area is a desired destination for ecotourists from all over the world and was set aside to provide a refuge for our native wildlife.” He urged those present to help save the monkeys from illegal hunters and provided contact numbers to make any reports.”
Manmohan Nanan, one of the police officers assigned to the district, shared information on the rights of citizens to take action. Those present were cautioned about the need for personal safety first and foremost and applying discretion in such potentially dangerous situations.
Lutchmedial who was instrumental in gathering the group of concerned citizens which he felt was critical in light of the dire situation, said: “The absence of Honorary Game Wardens for over three years now has placed severe pressure on the current cadre of wardens and it is just impossible to protect wildlife from illegal hunting in the desired manner.”
He further stated, “The appointment of Honorary Game Wardens will enhance enforcement efforts in this area.”
“In recent times, we are witnessing an assault on our environment and wild animals, and we must act now or face a barren future,” Lutchmedial said.