PORT OF SPAIN – They had not long reappeared at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary when a flamboyance of around 50 American Flamingos caught the hungry eyes of poachers.
Now, director at Nanan’s Bird Tours, Victor Nanan, said the stand has dwindled to around 20 and with the loss of each bird goes another tourism resource.
Nanan was asked Tuesday to confirm a claim by eco-worriers Papa Bois Conservation (PBC), that poachers were fast wiping out the stunning birds, who have all but disappeared from Trinidad’s swampy coasts.
The PBC also stated in a Facebook post this week that poachers have also continued to target Trinidad and Tobago’s national bird, the Scarlet Ibis.
The Ibis is apparently considered a delicacy by some.
According to PBC’s Stephen Broadbridge, the Sanctuary is also usually under-patrolled, due to the Wildlife Division claiming that thieves have made off with the wardens’ boat engines, giving the poachers free reign over a plethora of protected and endangered animals.
Broadbridge said it is common to hear gunshots ringing out in the swamp, one of this country’s tourism staples.
Tour operators have in the past also complained of illegal hunting during roosting hours in the evening, a peak viewing time as birds including the Ibis come home to roost. The gunshots disturb the animals, scare them off and also harm the quality of the tours, they have said.
Nanan confirmed the ongoing tragedy and said the lanky, often pink-hued Flamingos migrate to different feeding grounds but this regiment had settled at the Caroni Swamp just about a year ago.
He said the birds, who are picture-perfect, living renditions of the infamous lawn flamingo decorations they inspired decades ago, have over the past months become the number one attraction on tours.
This was also because numbers of Scarlet Ibis wax and wane, largely influenced by how prolific a time the poachers may be having, he said.
“It’s very sad,” Nanan said.
“This is a lawless country where anything goes. We are possibly going to lose a great asset here.”
He said they also in the past could be seen in other swampy parts of the country and coast but changes in the availability of food and an infestation of poachers have caused them to mostly disappear.