Singh: Wildlife conservation can pay
August 10, 2007
Singh: Wildlife conservation can pay

Whales and other wild animals are better off alive than dead and a wildlife protection activist is hoping that this message is grasped loud and clear by Caribbean countries.

Dr Joth Singh, the director of wildlife and habitat protection for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says that he believes that wildlife responsibility still needs to be hammered into the consciousness of Caribbean people.{{more}}

“In the Caribbean the overall attitude to wildlife is good but I am not sure we understand fully how valuable our wildlife is,” Dr Singh told SEARCHLIGHT last week.

He said that as the region continues to explore its tourism potential it needs to capitalize on it’s natural beauty, including to a large degree, it’s wildlife.

Dr Singh said he was disappointed in Caribbean countries like St Vincent and the Grenadines which continue to vote in favour of Japan’s bid to resume commercial whaling, which he said, is counter to what is in the region’s best interest.

Anti-whaling campaign groups claim that the Japanese Fisheries Agency has carried out a programme of “vote-buying” – i.e. offering aid to poorer countries in return for them joining the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and supporting Japanese positions on whaling.

Japan is said to have invested US$320 million in overseas aid to Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Guinea, Morocco, Panama, St. Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, the Solomon Islands and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Caribbean countries have consistently sided with Japan in each IWC vote since 2001.

Dr Singh told SEARCHLIGHT that while the argument of balance is put forward when it refers to whaling, anything done commercially is driven by profit and can lose its sense of balance quite easily.

Dr Singh believes that even the economics of the issue should lead the Caribbean down the conservation path.

Case in point, the northeastern coastal village of Matura in Trinidad, which in the past was not the buzz of Trinidad, is quickly becoming one of the best known places in the land of steel pan and Calypso.

In 1990 a group of concerned villagers, backed by the Government formed an organization called Nature Seekers, aimed at, among other things, stopping the annual slaughtering of the majestic Leather back turtles that use the eight kilometre stretch of beach to lay their eggs.

Now as close to 2000 of these turtles that can grow to weigh as much as a ton, lumber onto the secluded beach, and many tours are conducted as eager nature lovers excitedly watch the beauty of Mother Nature unfold.

Every year around Easter this little village is transformed into a tourist hub and the village is booming with activity.

Dr Singh said that such a story should not be rare because islands like Dominica, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines can attest to the growth of the whale watching industry.

“That’s why these countries should be against commercial whaling,” Dr Singh said.

The IFAW works to improve the welfare of the wild and domestic animals throughout the world by reducing commercial exploitation of animals, protecting wildlife habitats and assisting animals in distress.