International funding to protect TT’s marine mammals, reptiles
Wednesday, February 4 2009
THE Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago and the Manatee Conservation Trust have joined forces and signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of marine mammals and reptiles with the International Fund for Animal Welfare Inc (IFAW).
The signing took place on Monday at the Cascadia Hotel, St Ann’s.
Minister of Tourism Joseph Ross, who was present at the signing, said recent statistics showed that whale watching in the Caribbean was “currently generating about US $22,000,000 per year in income.”
“This is done in a commercial endeavour with important educational, environmental, scientific and other socioeconomic benefits and it is at least a US$1 billion industry attracting more than nine million participants each year in some 87 countries and territories,” he added.
Ross admitted that the travel and tourism sectors were the world’s largest industry and employer and “for tourism and eco-tourism to succeed, there is a constant need for a product or products which can out-compete others in the region of even globally.”
IFAW has been active in Trinidad and Tobago for some three years. They visited in 2006 to monitor whales and dolphins and have been, “supporting the Manatee Trust in its effort to protect the leatherback turtles at Manzanilla and providing training for wildlife enforcement officers in CITES implementation,” Ross said.
The Manatee Conservation Trust was established in 1997, with financial backing from a few benefactors, principally Gupte Lutchmedial, who acquired the estate of the Huggins Trust Limited.
The estate consists of some 500 acres situated along the periphery of the Nariva Swamp and stretching well more than 12 kilometres along Manzanilla/Cocal.
The Trust is a non-profit organisation and approximately 75 percent of its membership is drawn from the local community and consists of environmental interest groups and government agencies.
The first vice-president of the Manatee Conservation Trust, Nadra Nathai-Gyan said the organisation has expanded its mandate from protection of the manatee and its vulnerable habitat, Nariva Swamp to encompass protection of other endangered species especially marine mammals and marine reptiles. Nathai-Gyan said the Trust has saved 14 of the 25 short-finned pilot whales stranded on the Manzanilla beach in 1999 and received the Humming Bird Silver Medal for its work. It also has an annual co-management partnership with the Forestry Division at Manzanilla beach to protect the nesting leatherback turtles.
Kevin Shields, director of programmes at the IFAW, said the MOU will have a “huge impact on the region in the different areas such as conservation education; enforcement training for wildlife officers, working on night patrols on the beaches with nesting leatherback turtles and ultimately to conduct scientific research in marine conservation.”
The MOU consists of funding from IPAW, he added. “It’s a partnership agreement where we are helping to provide funding to and support to the Manatee Conservation Trust and the Zoological Society. IPAW will be funding US$10,000 a year and we are hoping to expand, make and strengthen our bond for this project. Our focus is on the conservation and welfare of marine mammals and reptiles as we attempt to do projects that are beneficial to the community and the animals,” he said.