Saturday 21 April, 2018

Investigation launched after wardens, poachers, clash in Caroni swamp

An investigation is being launched into an incident in which game wardens crashed into another boat while chasing alleged poachers last week in the Caroni swamp. 

As a result of the accident, two persons were injured and taken to hospital for treatment. One man was still warded at hospital up to Sunday morning. 

Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries Minister Clarence Rambharat said to LoopTT that he has contacted the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard (TTCG) to appoint an independent investigator to look into the incident.

"On Friday I was briefed on a series of matters involving poaching of wildlife; illegal sales; and illegal activities in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary. This involves seizure and prosecution of illegal traders. It also includes an incident in which a privately own boat and a patrol boat came into contact in what I was advised is a prohibited area of the Caroni Bird Sanctuary. At the time, the patrol boat was said to be in pursuit of another vessel also within the prohibited area. In light of the serious nature of poaching in the Caroni Swamp, on Saturday I requested and the Coast Guard agreed to appoint an independent investigator into the incident involving the three vessels," Rambharat said in a statement.

It is alleged that the poachers were hunting for crabs in a no-hunting zone and were seen by wildlife officials, who gave chase. During the course of the chase, the officials reportedly collided with another boat.

However, director of the Papa Bois Conservation group, Stephen Broadbridge, said he spoke to some people involved in the incident who said that the crabs were not released but detained by the officials. 

The Caroni Swamp is one of the largest mangrove forests in the country and is protected under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. 

The central section of the acreage is designated as a wildlife sanctuary and is home to the country's national bird, the Scarlet Ibis.