The National Wildlife Policy was formally approved by Cabinet in December, 2013. A Draft Wildlife Policy was developed for Trinidad and Tobago by a Cabinet-appointed Technical Committee and was made available to the general public for comment and public consultations were held during the period January to March, 2013 throughout Trinidad and in Tobago. Additionally, The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources facilitated special meetings for major stakeholders to elicit views and recommendations on the Draft Policy.
These comments were then reviewed and used to revise the Draft by the Technical Advisory Committee. Once final adjustments were made, the Draft Policy was sent to Cabinet for consideration and on December 19, 2013 Cabinet adopted the National Wildlife Policy for Trinidad and Tobago.
The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, the Forest Division and the Tobago House of Assembly express gratitude to all those who participated and contributed to the process of finalising the Policy and as such, enhancing the policy framework for the sustainable management of wildlife resources of the country. Development of an appropriate legislation and administrative framework for the implementation of the Wildlife Policy is currently underway.
The Wildlife Policy provides guidance on the sustainable management of undomesticated animals and plants, whether introduced, resident or migratory, their parts or derivatives, and their habitats. It addresses issues related to endangerment and provides guidance on the management of threatened species. It also addresses key policy issues on the management of game species, wildlife habitat and the engagement of civil society in the management of wildlife.
Trinidad and Tobago has a rich diversity of wildlife species compared to other Caribbean islands due primarily to its location and geological relationship with the South American continent. The country’s wildlife resources are of great importance to all sectors of Trinidad and Tobago society playing a critical role at both national and local levels, mainly through agriculture, fishing, recreation, tourism and culture. Rural communities depend upon a variety of wild flora and fauna for their existence through hunting, fishing, craft, tour guiding and other nature-based activities. Activities such as nature tours to the Caroni Bird Sanctuaries, forest trails, marine turtles nesting sites and coral reefs in Tobago generate revenue for individuals and communities associated with these features. Trinidad’s five (5) terrestrial species of game animals also support a diminishing hunting industry. The country’s wildlife fauna and flora are also prized in the international pet (particularly tropical fish, reptiles and birds) and horticultural markets.
The management of the country’s wildlife resources is effected through the Conservation of Wildlife Act, Chapter 67:01 which was enacted in 1958. The Forestry Division has responsibility for the enforcement of the Act and the management of wildlife resources in Trinidad. In this regard, a Wildlife Section was established in 1981 as a sub-unit of the Forestry Division and is staffed by Game Wardens and Foresters supervised by a Wildlife Biologist. In Tobago, the Wildlife Unit of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (DNRE) of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has a similar role as the Wildlife Section in Trinidad, and in addition is responsible for Wetlands Management and Responding to Wildlife Stranding. The Head of the Wildlife Unit is a Wildlife Management Officer, and the Unit is presently staffed by six (6) Game Wardens and two (2) Foresters.
The current Conservation of Wildlife Act which replaced earlier legislation for the protection of “wild bird” and “ground game”, enables the protection and conservation of fauna (mammals, birds and reptiles) through the regulation of hunting by a system of permits, closed seasons and game sanctuaries. The Act prescribes a closed hunting season which outlaws the taking, sale, purchase and possession of wild meat during this season. Despite superficial amendments to the Act to address certain management issues since 1958, there continues to be a deterioration of the country’s wildlife resources. Growing population pressures, industrialization and unsustainable utilization of the country’s biological resources have resulted in the significant deterioration of the natural environment. The high biological diversity of the country within a very small geographic area implies that relatively small incremental loss in natural areas can have serious impacts on ecosystem integrity and resiliency. Given these factors it is imperative that a policy be developed to sustainably manage the country’s wildlife resources.
Wildlife is We Ting!