Wed | Nov 29, 2023

Wild animals eaten locally on NEPA’s radar

Published:Friday | September 22, 2023 | 12:08 AM
A sign erected at the Salt River in Clarendon, which is a habitat for crocodiles.
A sign erected at the Salt River in Clarendon, which is a habitat for crocodiles.

THE NATIONAL Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has informed The Gleaner that there is a list of well-known wild animals that are eaten in Jamaica, whether legally or illegally, that was on its radar.

This list includes native species such as four species of birds that are legally hunted each year; the white-crowned pigeon ( Patagioenas leucocephala); the white-winged dove ( Zenaida asiatica); the zenaida dove ( Zenaida aurita), and the mourning dove ( Zenaida macroura).

There is also the illegal hunting of ducks such as the migratory blue-winged teal ( Spatula discors), the Northern Shoveler ( Spatula clypeata), and the endangered West Indian whistling duck ( Dendrocygna arborea).

Egrets such as the great egret ( Ardea alba), the snowy egret ( Egretta thula), and the great blue heron ( Ardea herodias) are known to be illegally hunted on a small scale.

“Likewise, recent reports suggest even the Greater Antillean Grackle or Cling-cling ( Quiscalus niger) are now targets for consumption. It is also known that in the rural areas, almost any type of bird is illegally hunted with a slingshot, mostly by boys,” NEPA said.

“Eggs of bird species inhabiting offshore cays such as black-necked stilt ( Himantopus mexicanus), brown noddy ( Anous stolidus), sooty tern ( Onychoprion fuscata), bridled tern ( Onychoprion anaethetus), and brown booby ( Sula leucogaster) are also harvested and sold as Booby eggs,” the agency said.

There are also unconfirmed reports that suggest that the Jamaican boa is occasionally consumed mainly by a small portion of the population. One such unconfirmed report states that the blood of the snake is also mixed with alcohol and consumed.

Surveys in the form of questionnaires administered by the NEPA gathered information suggesting that snakes are caught and often sold for obeah, especially lotto scammers in Negril.

The Jamaican boa is also heavily persecuted and killed due to the false belief that it is venomous.

The agency reported that the Jamaican coney or mountain rabbit ( Geocapromys brownii) was once an important source of meat for the native Taino Indians, who once occupied the island. It is known to be hunted on a very small scale in localised rural communities.

Anecdotal reports suggest that the Jamaican slider turtle or pond turtle ( Trachemys terrapen) is also poached by a small portion of the population.

Similarly, anecdotal reports of the West Indian manatee or sea cow ( Trichechus manatus manatus) suggest that it is captured and the meat sold subsequently. Fishermen are known to have caught manatees – sometimes accidentally – in their nets.