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Vishnu Sookram, second from left, and Donald Ramdath taken to the Point Fortin Magistrate Court, yesterday.

Two Cedros fishermen who were illegally keeping 17 birds and 13 baby monkeys at their home were yesterday slapped with $174,200 in fines.

Ordering that the fines be paid in two months, Point Fortin Senior Magistrate Alicia Chankar chastised Donald Ramdhanie, 46, and Vishnu Sookram, 35, for the inhumane and cruel conditions in which the animals were being kept.

“I believe animals should be given the respect that they deserve. What you all did was totally wrong, inhumane and selfish,” the magistrate said.

The White-Fronted monkeys were found in three wicker baskets while the Bullfinch birds were kept in a small cage. One of the birds did not survive the ordeal.

Ramdhanie and Sookram who live at the same residence at Icacos Village, pleaded guilty to 47 charges, including 17 counts of keeping a Bullfinch in captivity without a permit, 17 counts of keeping birds in an undersized cage and 13 counts of possession of a protected animal (the monkeys), without a permit.

They were charged by game warden Bisham Madhu.

Relating the facts to the court, prosecutor Sgt Kenny Manolal said around 12.30 am on Saturday Cpl Boodhai and other officers of the Cedros Police Station were on patrol when they received information which led them to the fishermen’s home.

Upon being invited into the premises, the officers searched the house and found the animals.

Ramdhanie and Sookram admitted they did not have a permit to keep the animals.

The prosecutor said the cage in which the birds were found was designed to house only two birds.

Their attorney Kristoff Rambert said the men had no previous convictions or pending matters. Although found at their premises, Rambert said the animals did not belong to them. He said the owner of the animals left them by their house and was supposed to have returned for them. Submitting that his clients were unaware that a permit was required to own those animals, he said that was evident by the fact that they allowed the police to enter their home without a search warrant.

Asking the men how they would feel if they were placed in the prisoner’s dock in the courtroom with 15 other men, the magistrate said, “Put yourself in place of those monkeys and birds. Is it that they did not deserve freedom, because you say animals are dumb, they can’t speak?”

She added, “Nobody should be treated like that, whether it is a pet or a human.”

The court was told that one of those monkeys would be sold for $2,500 on the black market while one bird would cost over $500.

The maximum penalty for keeping a caged bird without a permit and in an undersized cage is a $2,000 fine while the charge relating to the monkeys carries a maximum fine of $5,000. After taking into consideration their guilty plea, the magistrate fined the accused $1,300 on each of the 34 charges relating to the birds. If they fail to pay the fines they will serve three months in jail on each charge.

On each of the 13 other charges they were fined $3,300 or in default six months imprisonment. Therefore, each of accused will have to pay $87,100 in fines.

The sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

The magistrate ordered the animals to be released in the care of the Emperor Valley Zoo and the destruction of the wicker baskets and cage.

Speaking with Guardian Media afterwards, Game Warden Two Steve Seepersad said he was pleased with the fines and hoped it would deter other persons from dabbling in the illegal wildlife trade.

It is believed that the animals were smuggled into the country from Venezuela and it was likely that the babies’ parents would have been killed. “The only way to get a baby monkey away from its mother is to kill the mother. The parents of these monkeys will protect them with their life,” he said.