The yardstick of enforcement must be re-examined.
The ruthless drowning of dozens of birds in Cedros (see press report https://trinidadexpress.com/newsextra/exotic-birds-sacrificed-as-smugglers-throw-them-overboard/article_2192801c-a5a5-11ea-b8b8-3bcc90c1d6b8.html) by three smugglers highlights the cold blooded nature of black marketeers.
We applaud the action of our Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries,
Clarence Rambharat in instructing that these smugglers also face animal cruelty charges (the maximum fine of which is 100,000TTD) in addition to their possession charges. We also welcome the intended increase of fines for illegal wildlife activity including possession without a permit. However, without proper capture and enforcement these fines will not be a sufficient deterrent to smugglers. Would illegal smuggling exist if we had higher smuggler detection and capture rates, and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment or 20 years hard labor?
The maximum penalty is reported to be 10,000TTD, or 1500USD per offence for the possession of approximately fifty (50) protected, vulnerable, rare and/or endangered South American birds. With high profits and low detection rates for smugglers, these penalties may not be enough of a deterrent. These smugglers will be back on the sea immediately. The yardstick of enforcement must be re-examined. If our border security is underequipped, no amount of penalties will stop the broad daylight smugglers.
The callous, recurrent, deliberate criminality of capturing, transporting, smuggling, trading, profiteering and murdering protected creatures is thriving and the Law is failing us.
The scourge of animal poaching leads to enslavement, torture, and murder of protected creatures. Here at home, weak law enforcement encourages a thriving contraband. The trade of parrots, macaws, sloths, tortoises, turtles, wild hogs, snakes, monkeys and numerous species of exotic birds is deeply rooted in underground markets, as our citizens purchase animals without permits. Apart from torture and destruction, this underground importation has far reaching health impacts such as zoonotic disease transmission (e.g. tuberculosis, yellow fever or shigellosis), parasite transmission, or ecological impacts such as the destruction of ecosystems by invasive species.
Unmasked lawlessness and cruelty to animals is symptomatic of our moral and spiritual decay and must be addressed by enlightened parliamentarians. If someone can stuff a defenseless animal in a bottle for transport, gouge out its eyes to prevent it from whistling, or throw a tied bird into the ocean fully aware that it will drown, there is no telling what atrocities they can commit to their fellow humans in their pursuit of profit.
If you possess a protected animal, or are unsure whether you do, please contact the Forestry Division, Wildlife Section of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (662-5114 or 645-4288), or the Wildlife and Environment Protection of Trinidad and Tobago (WEPTT) (341-9983). These animals must be placed under the care of trained wildlife experts and will eventually be rehabilitated. If you have information on someone else involved in the illegal capture or sale of wildlife, do call the above numbers or contact the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service at 555, 999 or 800-TIPS. We must work together to reduce the demand for these exotic animals and educate others in the cruel methods of animal treatment involved in this illegal animal trade.
Without demand there is no supply. Our citizens are equally culpable in this cruelty by indirectly encouraging smugglers to commit such acts as murdering the mother of a young monkey, stuffing the baby into a cage of its own filth and subjecting it to prolonged abuse and malnourishment until it reaches a buyer where there are no guarantee conditions will improve (and if it is not purchased in a timely manner, it is likely to be killed).
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea