St Vincent denies swapping parrots for aid
St Vincent and the Grenadines government has denied that it is engaged in trading a number of the endangered local Amazona guildingii parrots for vehicles from Germany.
Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar dismissed the allegations made by Lauron Baptiste, a candidate for the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in the next general elections, saying the government had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Berlin-based Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP) so as to ensure the survival of the parrots in case of a natural disaster.
Baptiste had announced during the opposition-led protest march in the capital last month that the Ministry of Agriculture had already received three vehicles as part of the arrangement.
"There are three vehicles right now for three officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, they 'fraid to clear them. You know why? Because they were supposed to trade off our parrots again for three vehicles," said Baptiste, a former employee at the ministry.
"Thirteen pairs of parrots were supposed to go to Germany again and the vehicles are at the wharf for three officials, and they have been sitting there for quite a while. You will hear more about this," Baptiste said, adding that he would like the media to investigate the allegation.
But Caesar told the Caribbean Media Corporation that the St Vincent government had an agreement with the Berlin-based organisation "just in case we have a very bad natural disaster, where the wildlife is significantly impacted in a negative way. Pursuant to the agreement, they are to work with the conservation of the National Bird," he said.
"They are contributing by giving technical assistance and equipment to protect the parrot in the wild and also to protect those in activity."
"These three jeeps are pursuant to the general assistance framework by the ACTP," he said, adding that the ACTP also has a strong relationship with the governments of Brazil and St. Lucia.
"Those three jeeps, I was advised by the Forestry Department, will be soon handed over to the Forestry Division for them to continue their surveillance work in the forest and to ensure that our National Bird and the heritage of it is properly protected," Caesar said.
"I have heard the statement that was made and it is quite unfortunate that such as statement was made, because the same thing pertains in St. Lucia, the same thing pertains in Brazil. If we are to develop our country, if we are to work to protect the bird, there is a significant need for partnerships to be enhanced," Caesar said, confirming that about 35 local parrots are at the German conservatory.
Steps to protect birds
Asked what measures were being taken to ensure that the birds do not become part of the illegal trade, Caesar said: "We have irregular visits by the technical persons in St Vincent and the Grenadines from the Forestry Division who will sometimes make visit even twice per year."
He also pointed to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), saying that the convention is stringent with monitoring.
"We are going to strengthen the monitoring exercise that the government has," Caesar said, adding that the services of the Food and Agriculture Organisation have been retained and will accompany senior local government officials on the visit to Germany and to continue the discussion on how to tighten the regulations.
Caesar said that under the agreement with the ACTP, Vincentian nationals are pursuing studies in Trinidad.
"It is not safe to say that these four persons were sent because of parrots. It was just a part of the arrangement," he said.