Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar has denied that a population of Vincentian parrots, the Amazona guildingii, an endemic species, at a conservation facility in Germany are part of a deal that allows the government to trade the National Bird for vehicles.
Lauron “Sharer” Baptiste, a candidate for the opposition New Democratic Party in the next general elections, said at the party’s protest march in Kingstown last month that the Ministry of Agriculture had received three vehicles as part of the alleged 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 quiet a while. You will hear more about this,” Baptiste said, adding that he would like the media to investigate the allegation.
But Caesar told I-Witness News last week Thursday that the government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Berlin-based Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP).
The group is assisting the government in keeping a number of parrots at the Botanical Gardens in Kingstown at the facility in Germany, “just in case we have a very bad natural disaster, where the wildlife is significantly impacted in a negative way,” Caesar said.
“Pursuant to the agreement, they are to work with the conservation of the National Bird. … They are contributing by giving technical assistance and equipment to protect the parrot in the wild and also to protect those in activity,” he said of the ACTP.
“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,” he further told I-Witness News.
He said there are about 35 Vincentian parrots are at the German conservatory.
Asked what measures were being taken to ensure that they bird 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 visits even twice per year.”
He also pointed to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), saying that the convention “is very stringent with the monitoring”.
“We are going to strengthen the monitoring exercise that the government has,” Caesar said.
He further told I-Witness News that the services of the Food and Agricultural Organisation have been retained and they will accompany senior officers from the Veterinary and Forestry Divisions and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture to visit the site in Germany and to continue the discussion “as to how we will tighten the regulations”.
Caesar told I-Witness News that under the agreement with the ACTP, three Vincentian 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, however, added.
Regarding the parrots being kept at the Botanical Gardens, Caesar said:
“We have to enhance the area. It is going to be a capital project that can cause us a bit,” he said.
He said the ACTP wanted to partner with the government in enhancing the facility at the Botanical Gardens and had drawn up “significant designs”.
“There are still discussions held between the Forestry Division and the ACTP as they regards this,” Caesar said, adding that the 250th anniversary of the botanical gardens is coming up soon.
“… they would not want to have any repair works done too close to that date that will appear to be a scar in the Gardens and a scar on the event. So, I think that may be one of the reasons why there may be a bit of a postponement. But I am certain it will be one of the issues that will be raised on the agenda when the team visits Germany later on this month,” he said.