Hunters warned to practise restraint as season opens

An armadillo at the Corbin Wildlife Park. – File photo/Ayanna Kinsale

Since Monday, hunters have been buying their game licences at Forestry Division offices across Trinidad and Tobago in preparation for the start of the hunting season.

It opens on October 1 and ends on February 28, 2022.

President of the East Trinidad Hunters Association Gary Watche told Newsday his members are excited to hunt and have been doing all they can to prepare.

Part of his association’s preparation for this year’s season was ensuring members got vaccinated against covid19. While the association hasn’t been able to vaccinate all 100 per cent of its 500-plus membership yet, Watche estimates at least 70 per cent have been.

He told Newsday, “Via social media, we try to encourage all our hunters to get vaccinated.

“Special focus was placed on getting hunters vaccinated in the rural areas.”

Watche thanked the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) for helping with the vaccination drive.

Hunters are excited for this year’s season because they’ll be getting a full season. Owing to covid19, the start of the 2020 season was delayed from October 1 to December .

While last year’s season was shorter, Watche said the hunters in his association didn’t suffer heavy financial losses because of the type of hunting they do.

It promotes sports hunting, which means members hunt more for enjoyment than for financial benefit.

He explained, “We promote sport hunting, where a man might shoot a lil agouti or beast with his friends and they’ll make a lil cook at the end of the thing.

“So sport hunting don’t really have any financial benefits – but we have members from the rural areas who depend on the hunting season as a source of income.”

He said hunters were being educated on sustainable hunting practices and why they are important. He said they are constantly reminded not to overhunt or hunt in protected areas.

He explained, “Our membership meets every two months, on and off season.

“In every one of our meetings, we always edify the membership…we go through the Wildlife Conservation Act in detail and we also go through things like the Firearms Act.

“We try to educate our members to not litter the forest and also not to shoot young or pregnant animals.

“We have maps of hunting areas where we show hunters where they can hunt and where they can’t hunt, like forest reserves.”

Officials from the Forestry Division and police sometimes attend the association’s meetings to talk with hunters.

Efforts like these are just some of the reasons why Watche encourages hunters to join recognised hunting associations.

When it comes to hunting under the current state of emergency, Watche said there shouldn’t be many problems.

For example, TT’s hunting laws only permit hunting between 6am and 6pm, which means the current 10pm-5am curfew should not affect hunters.

However, Watche wants to know if any provisions will be made to accommodate hunters who may find themselves in distressing situations and hence may be outside after the curfew.

While hunters are gearing up to hunt their prized catches, wildlife biologist Dr Luke Rostant is cautioning them to do so within reasonable limits.

Rostant does research on mammals with the department of life sciences at UWI and recently participated in a national wildlife survey supported by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

In a message to hunters, Rostant told Newsday, “Don’t hunt in excess. Do so within reason to support your family, but without pervading the system.

“What happens sometimes is we have some hunters going into hunting for many sales, which becomes problematic.

“A lot them are in it for the sport, which should be sustainable, once they hunt within reason.”

Though he’s advising hunters to practise restraint when hunting any game species, Rostant particularly wants them to be mindful that number of peccaries in the wild are alarmingly low.

He added, “I don’t think a lot of hunters get peccary licences anyway, but it is a species we need to pay attention to, in my opinion.”

Rostant said he recently made several recommendations to the EMA on wildlife conservation, based on the national wildlife survey. He is waiting to see what will be done with the recommendations.