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Editorial: Barbarity at Alligator Pond

Published:Friday | September 25, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Judging by the public response to the images that went viral on social media, the majority of Jamaicans are, like us, shocked and outraged at the barbarity of the recent live butchering of a hawksbill turtle in Alligator Pond, Manchester, by persons who believed its meat to be an aphrodisiac.

We, therefore, welcome the move by the National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA) to identify the culprits for the purpose of prosecuting them under the Wildlife Protection Act for illegally having in their possession and trading in the turtle. NEPA should not relent in its efforts.

But this matter should not end there. Once the persons have been identified, they should be additionally charged by the police under the Cruelty to Animals Act, which makes it an offence to abuse, torture, or otherwise maltreat "any animal". The turtle in question was subject to severe torture. Its carapace and limbs were removed while it was still alive.

 

the value of coexisting

 

But in addition to throwing the book at the perpetrators of this vile act, it is clear that NEPA and other public and private agencies engaged in Jamaica's flora and fauna need to expand their public education on these matters, including the value of coexisting with other species and debunking myths, especially among males, that the meat of some animals enhances sex drive. Turtles, and increasingly Jamaica's American crocodiles, have paid dearly for these beliefs.

There was a time when several species of Atlantic sea turtles were commonly sighted in Jamaica. Over the past century, most have become rare and the leatherback and loggerhead almost non-existent. These days, some green turtles, which can reach up to 700 pounds, and the smaller hawksbill, still nest in Jamaica with the help and support of a small pool of volunteers who wants to see their numbers recover.

 

notoriously inefficient

 

In Jamaica, like in several other countries, turtles and other species have suffered from human encroachment on their nesting sites as well as consumption of their eggs and meat. So you get what happened in Alligator Pond last week as well as the several reported incidents of crocodiles being captured and butchered and their meat sold expensively, with, unfortunately, little deterrence.

While NEPA has caused a number of people to be charged under the Wild Life Protection Act, it has few convictions to show for its efforts because of the slowness with which Jamaica's courts proceed. This, issue, therefore, provides another reason for the need for improvements in the island's notoriously inefficient court system.

Turtles, the American crocodile, and other Jamaican endangered species have evolved and adapted over millennia. It would be a shame if they went extinct on our watch.

DPP should review Prickly Pole case

We welcome the swiftness with which Ronnie Thwaites, the education minister, dispatched Vinnette Robb-Oddman as chairman of Prickly Pole Primary School in St Ann, where students joined adults in a demonstration last week and one died in the fray, or near thereto.

But Mr Thwaites should not have had to fire Mrs Robb-Oddman. She should have done the decent thing and resigned, rather than attempt to parse, if not prevaricate her way out of last week's debacle.

But apart from a lesson about the responsibility of school governors, this incident is also one in how they should be - or should not be - appointed. Mrs Robb-Oddman is an activist of the governing People's National Party (PNP) in South Eat St Ann, where an attempt is being made by a faction, which she supports, to force the sitting MP, Lisa Hanna, out of the seat.

While Mrs Robb-Oddman argues to the contrary, it is widely held that last week's demonstration was in furtherance of that effort. She has sought to extricate herself from claims that she was part of the effort of the mobilisation of child demonstrators, but there, it appears, is little doubt that she at least had a hand in the disruption of school proceedings.

She was, at best, irresponsible.

This matter should be turned over to the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine if criminal charges should be brought against Mrs Robb-Oddman, or anyone else.