Three men who said they found the carcass of a dead bird, with brown and grey feathers, not knowing it was Scarlet Ibis, this country's national bird, were spared a jail sentence after they pleaded guilty to the crime.
Two Chinese restaurant workers and a local handyman were each fined $800.The trio-30-year-old restaurant manager Jaing Hui Feng, 30-year-old cook Jin Feng Feng and 55-year-old Alion Ramkhawan, from San Juan, were fined by Magistrate Sanara Toon-McQuilkin after pleading guilty to the offence during a hearing in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate's Court, on Monday.
While the men admitted to being in possession of the protected bird, they claimed that they did not know it was a Scarlet Ibis as it had brown feathers. Juvenile Scarlet Ibis are grey or brown and develop their striking coloration from a diet of red crustaceans.The men, who spoke through their attorney, said the bird was already dead when they found it and had not decided what they were going to do with it when they were arrested during a roadblock in El Socorro on Saturday.
In passing sentence, Toon-McQuilkin said she was initially considering a prison sentence but took into consideration the fact they pleaded guilty on their first court appearance and all had clean criminal records.
The men were allowed two weeks to pay the fine. If they fail to do so they will face 30 days in prison.
Under the Conservation of Wildlife Act poaching or being in possession of a carcass of the protected animal carries a maximum $1,000 or up to three months in prison.In August, last year, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat began the process of designating the species, which is one of this country's two national birds, as an Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS).
In July the declaration was made by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA). Under the Environmental Management Act, persons found with the carcass of an ESS or any part thereof, face a $100,000 fine and up to two years in prison.
Police and game wardens, who arrested the men, were unable to utilise the new provision as it is yet to be Gazetted. The men were charged by game wardens Richard Ramlogan and Nicholas Leith.
- by Derek Achong