This intervention was made to counter a reported 90 percent cut in the funds provided for beach patrols by the Forestry Division this year, although discussions are ongoing with the Conservator of Forests, Couternay Park on the matter. ZSTT, President Gupte Lutchmedial spoke of the close links between both organisations and the opportunity that this situation provided to use donations from the public for a worthwhile cause.
Lutchmedial said, “The great interest generated by the birth of the white tiger cubs at the Zoo and the over-subscription for picture opportunities could not have come at a better time. When the Board met recently it was agreed that in light of the dire situation facing the nesting leatherback turtles at Manzanilla, the best value for the monies collected would be to pay for the beach patrols.” Lutchmedial also indicated that this would take effect retroactively from March until August this year and is estimated at close to $120,000.
The partnership did not cease with this one move and on Saturday April 4 the MCT was joined by the ZSTT in a clean up of the most-frequented nesting areas along the 12-kilometre stretch of the Manzanilla beach. David Boodoo, the MCT’s Vice-President and coordinator of the beach clean up was very appreciative of the support of the ZSTT to work alongside its members and other persons from the community. “We have had patrollers out here since the start of the season in March and realised that a greater effort was needed to clear the beach area as turtles were being obstructed by the debris on the beach,” declared Boodoo.
Nirmal Biptah, Curator at the Zoo and lead member for the ZSTT speaking on its behalf, endorsed the view of Boodoo and said that just in one strip frequented by the turtles, truck loads of debris were carted away.
“The situation at Manzanilla is a sad reflection of how we regard our environment,” Biptah said, ane he added: “This fragile strip of beach, which is so important for the survival of an endangered species is being bombarded from onshore and offshore pollution as we collected plastic bottles, plates and cups discarded by beachgoers and rope and other paraphernalia which would have had to come from ships.” An added problem for the turtles has arisen as well in the form of large strands of Sargassum seaweed washed up onshore in which turtles and hatchlings can get entangled. The stepping in of the ZSTT for a local conservation cause should come as no surprise to those familiar with its role in the rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals across the country. The records reveal that calls come in on a daily basis to the Zoo Hotline for the rescue and collection of a range of animals including snakes, birds and various species of mammals. In the majority of cases, these animals are relocated to safe areas once they are deemed fit for release into the wild.
From viewing the iconic white tiger cubs at the Emperor Valley Zoo to saving endangered leatherback turtles at Manzanilla, the link in the conservation chain has certainly been strengthened, conservationists said.