Sunday 15 December, 2019

Caroni Swamp's protected animals dying; poison suspected

NGOs say a mass poisoning which killed 40 cats is now killing protected wildlife in the Caroni Swamp Reserve.

Animal welfare groups have gone to the site to remove the cats after other protected animals such as hawks and a Matte (Golden Tegu) were among animals found dead near the location of the massacre.

The groups are calling on the authorities to step in and for the perpetrator of these killings to be caught. 

Wildlife and Environmental Protection of Trinidad and Tobago - WEPTT shared a video to social media showing the dead animals and condemning the act.

The group said they collected six cats, one golden tegu (matte) and one yellow-headed caracara to stop any other animals from eating the toxic material. 

(Photo courtesy the Animal Welfare Network.)

"Yesterday (21-08-19) we were alerted to an alarming incident at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary where someone had placed poisoned food for the stray and feral cats in the area."

"While we understand the cats are damaging to the ecosystem and have very detrimental effects to the environment we condemn this despicable act. At no time should any animal be subjected to such a terrible and painful death."

"Not only have the cats been affected but also many of the other animals in this protected sanctuary, including some animals that are protected by our conservation laws."

"Aside from directly ingesting the poison, some of the animals may feed (scavenge) on the carcasses of those animals killed by the poison and can also die from secondary exposure. This can and will likely continue to flow through the food chain and continue to damaging an already sensitive ecosystem."

(Photo courtesy WEPTT.)

The group said scavengers such as crabs, insects, and even fish and caimans may be affected. 

There is concern that the toxins from these animals which wash into the swamp could even injure scarlet ibis, the country's national bird. 

The group is warning people who catch crabs and fish in the area to be cautious as the creatures they catch may be toxic. 

The group said although the issue of cats in the swamp was one of concern, poisoning them is cruel and also illegal. 

(Photo: A yellow-headed caracara was killed; animal groups suspect poison. Photo courtesy WEPTT.)

The animals were taken for analysis to determine the cause of death. 

"It's a sad day for T&T, it's a sad day for our animals. We continue to plead with the Government to show compassion, to legislate effective animal welfare legislation to protect our animals but with no success. An uncaring Government cannot motivate a caring compassionate people. God help our nation," said the Animals 360 Foundation.

"Recently, the topic of cats at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary has been trending locally. It seems that someone took it upon themselves to poison the cats.

"POISON IS A TERRIBLE WAY FOR ANY ANIMAL TO DIE. Death by poison is slow and painful. It causes seizures, respiratory distress, vomiting, liver and kidney failure. It is absolutely inhumane to poison the cats."

(Photo: Animal welfare groups rescued several kittens after their mother was killed at the Caroni swamp. Photo courtesy the Animal Welfare Network.)

"It is extremely irresponsible and the residual effects are dangerous. Animals such as caiman and vultures who feed on these poisoned carcasses are at risk of being poisoned as well."

"The Caroni Bird Sanctuary is a thriving ecosystem and protected area. It is the home of the Scarlet Ibis and 20 endangered species. To use poison on the grounds of the sanctuary is a criminal act," said the Animal Welfare Network.

In April 2019, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said he would be assigning police officers to treat with crimes of animal cruelty. 

According to Section 79 of the Summary Offences Act Chapter it is an offence to ill-treat animals. Anyone who beats or abuses animals is liable to a fine of four hundred dollars or to imprisonment for two months. 

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