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Tobago celebrates Wildlife Day

Breeding life into dying species

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Members of the Wildlife Association of Tobago and well-wishers gathered at the Botanical Gardens in Scarborough recently to breed new life into the island’s fauna and flora.

Around the world, like-minded people did the same as they celebrated World Wildlife Day on March 3.

And although the association encouraged the more mature people to be part of the cause, they were especially attentive to the children.

The association feels the future of Tobago’s flora and fauna depends on the island’s children’s perception of the plant and animal kingdoms.

Those who gathered at the Scarborough Gardens for the event planted breadnut trees and released a young iguana into the dense area of the garden. This latest addition to the animal kingdom was bred in captivity by Wildlife Association member James Chapman.

The iguana is a dying breed as its population is decreasing rapidly because it’s considered a delicacy and can fetch a price as high as $100 per pound.

The breadnut, like the iguana, was once found in every yard on the island, but now it’s rarely seen and many young children may have never eaten it. Its outer skin looks similar to the breadfruit, but big nuts can be found inside.

Speaking about the significance of the event, Wildlife Association of Tobago president Lyndon Roberts said: “It’s important we change the way we view and do things for the survival of several wildlife species on the island.”

He noted that “the average Tobagonian views wildlife as a delicacy and not an important part of the island’s ecosystem, each playing a specific role.”

Roberts reminded the gathering that “iguanas are much more than food … and their protection is vital to the health of the ecosystem as they are herbivores and important seed-dispersers for many native plants.”

Selwyn Davis, from the Tobago House of Assembly’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, echoed similar sentiments.

He said the department is always happy to partner with civil society on projects and was reassured by the Wildlife Association’s actions. Noting that, already, at least one species - the deer - is lost, he said man can play a vital role in keeping different species alive.

He said the department had been aiding in the breeding of the White-tailed Sabrewing hummingbird being bred in captivity and released into the wildlife. The large hummingbird, he added, was also on the brink of extinction.