All over the world, especially in countries with a huge wildlife population, the call is being made for the authorities to take more proactive steps in halting the illegal trade in wildlife, and to manage wildlife in a more sustainable manner.
Some time ago, the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) had called for a ban on wildlife trade and commercial hunting in Guyana, in order to preserve the country’s biodiversity.
The experts have said, time and again, that the animals and plants that live in the wild have an intrinsic value, and contribute to the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic aspects of human well-being and sustainable development. It is therefore to our benefit when systems are put in place to protect our wildlife population.
Some countries are way advanced in terms of legislative mechanisms to protect all forms of wildlife, while other countries are now in the developmental stages of such legislation. In Guyana’s case, in an effort to strengthen the regulation and management of the international wildlife trade, regulations were put in place to make provisions for, among other things, penalising the harvesting of prohibited species of wildlife; exporting, re-exporting or importing wildlife without permits; and the use of prohibited devices and methods to hunt wildlife.
Over the years, several persons were charged and successfully prosecuted before the courts for attempting to smuggle birds and other small animals out of Guyana through our airports, to be sold abroad. However, there are still some challenges in relation to the implementation of the legislation, as the practice still continues, with some of the culprits even passing through our ports here undetected, only to be caught at their final destination.
It could also be recalled that, some time ago, there were reports in the media of the killing of a jaguar. A photo of the dead jaguar began circulating on social media, and it sparked debate about the need to protect this endangered species of animal. From all indications, based on the social media post, the animal was killed during a hunting trip. This is illegal, as the jaguar is known as Guyana’s national animal, and is protected by the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2016. According to the legislation, collecting, holding in captivity, hunting, killing, or otherwise molesting ‘protected’ species is prohibited.
The jaguar is the third-largest feline in the world, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Globally, jaguar populations are on the decline, mainly due to the loss of habitat and conflict with people. As a result, these animals are listed as a ‘near threatened’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
At the moment, there seems to be a lack of awareness by citizens here on the need to protect our wildlife population. Hence, there is need for more sensitisation sessions for miners and for residents of communities, especially where persons are more likely to come into contact with wild animals. The public must also be sensitised about the legislation governing the protection of wildlife in Guyana; for example, the hefty fines and possible jail time that one could face if one is found guilty of breaking the law.
The Guyana Wildlife Conservation and Management Commission (GWCMC) had begun working on developing a 10-year strategic plan as it relates to hunting, trapping, trade, protection, conservation, management and sustainable use of wildlife. This is indeed a step in the right direction, but in addition to this, as alluded to earlier, there is need for more stringent efforts by the authorities to ensure that such policies are effectively and efficiently implemented.