Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat has instructed Conservator of Forests Denny Dipchandsingh to pursue animal cruelty charges against the boat crew who caused more than 47 birds to drown after they threw them into the sea in Cedros on Tuesday.
The three men were held by the Coast Guard officers as they were reportedly returning from Venezuela in a pirogue with bullfinches, Hahn’s macaws, Orange-winged parrots and Caiques.
Commenting on the incident on his Facebook page, the minister sent a warning to people, including pet shop owners, involved in wildlife trafficking.
He said: “This is the dreadful side of the illegal trade in wildlife for local households and unscrupulous pet shop owners.
“Over 42 drowned birds recovered and many, many others drowned and disappeared. When you buy an illegally trafficked animal for a pet you are supporting this business. You are putting the country to risk that these are diseased birds and you are putting yourself to risk for being in possession of wildlife without a permit.
“Apart from the wildlife charges the Conservator of Forests has been directed to pursue animal cruelty charges under the recently amended Summary Offences Act.”
People found guilty of this offence are liable to a maximum fine of $100,000 with one-year jail time. An increase in the penalties for wildlife offences is also in the making.
“It is my intention to increase the fines for illegal wildlife activity including possession without a permit and also for illegal activities regarding pet shop owners and any other seller.”
The birds were being transported in wicker baskets and a cardboard box when around 6:36 am the men spotted the Coast Guard vessel. They threw the baskets and cardboard with the bird trapped inside into the sea as they tried to evade capture.
By the time the Coast Guard officers apprehended the men and fished out the birds they were either dead or dying. The bullfinch carcases slated away. Twenty macaws, 22 Caiques and five parrots perished.
Game Warden II Richard Ramlogan, and his colleague Bishan Madhu from the Forestry Division, interviewed the men at the Cedros Police Station.
However, due to the suspicion that the men came from Venezuela, and in keeping with COVID-19 protocols they were required to be tested for the virus before they could be detained at the station.
As a result, they were released, but they are still facing charges of possession of protected animals without a permit and having a second schedule animal in the closed season. The men will be served with a summons to appear before a magistrate to answer the charges. Those offences carry a maximum fine of $10,000.