$800 fine for dead Scarlet Ibis

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

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