INCREASED REPORTS OF POACHING & DEVELOPMENT IN NATIONAL PARKS DURING LOCKDOWN
Reconnaissance, led by The Bahamas National Trust (BNT), took place on Saturday, May 2nd, 2020, in cooperation with law enforcement, media, park wardens and other essential nation parks service staff members to act swiftly upon reports of poaching in Bonefish Pond National Park on the southern shores of New Providence. As a result of the enforcement operation two persons were apprehended by The Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF). The BNT expressed its gratitude for the support it received from community-minded individuals and organisational partners who responded to the call of duty during a weekend lockdown when it would have been easy to turn a blind eye. Incidentally, over the past week other reports of poaching and activity in New Providence parklands have been brought to the keen attention of the BNT by concerned citizens. Industrial landfill trucks were observed in the area of Harold & Wilson Pond National Park on Tuesday, April 28th, 2020. The development of property in the area is encroaching upon protected lands and the BNT is appealing for construction to halt until further investigation. Eric Carey, Executive Director, Bahamas National Trust: “Reports of poaching and other concerns have increased exponentially. We’ve seen all sorts. Endangered rock iguanas being captured, caged and killed in Andros. Park wardens noting signs of poaching in Inagua of precious flamingo hatchlings. Crawfishing also takes place even in the closed season, with disregard for regulations. All acts are a blatant disregard for the law.” The BNT hopes to be able to continue to rely on notifications from the public in regards to suspicious activity on parklands. National parks are in benefit of Bahamians and their existence is essential to our way of life. National parks throughout The Bahamas have been closed since March 20th, 2020 in accordance with The Bahamas government mandates. As such, any person, other than exempted park wardens, in these protected areas have entered unlawfully. Whether the intention is to scourge the land or sea of its natural resources- wildlife that seek refuge in parklands- or otherwise, these areas are forbidden to access at this time. The BNT has the distinguished honour of guarding these special places in the interest of all Bahamians, residents of The Bahamas, and visitors to the country that experience the splendor of national parks. The existence of all creatures that inhabit national parks sustains life and the lifestyle of generations of Bahamians to enjoy in the future. “National parks are spawning grounds and nurseries for young animals like conch, sharks, bonefish, and turtles who rely on marine protected areas to grow to maturity and reproduce without manmade stressors to their environments such as construction and development or threats of being fished,” explains Falon Cartwright, New Providence Parks Manager, Bahamas National Trust. Ms. Cartwright further noted that while restrictions within national parks may present a sacrifice to people in the short term, especially during difficult times such as these, communities must ensure that these critical habitats and species can support food security and our economy more broadly in the future. Under its purview, the BNT protects 32 national land and sea parks over more than two million acres, across 10 islands. The patrolling of park wardens was deemed an essential service by the government in recognition of the importance of these areas and the necessity of conservation. Anwar Rolle, New Providence Park Warden, Bahamas National Trust, says: “Our work is essential and it has not stopped since the announcement of national lockdowns. It is unfortunate that some seek to take advantage of the quietness of this time, but know that we are standing guard. We continue to patrol and protect areas in New Providence and throughout our parks on all islands.” Still, the area is expansive and there is an urgency for the BNT to forge strong community relationships that assist with the early detection of poachers and other human threats throughout Bahamian national parks. The BNT is calling upon its citizen army of environmental stewards to report activity anonymously through channels that are most convenient as such email: firstname.lastname@example.org or through private messaging on the BNT’s social media pages. It is important to note that the public should not take matters into their own hands. Instead, report observations directly to the BNT who are working closely with law enforcement to strategize safe tactical plans and apprehend criminal activity. To learn more about the vital work of the BNT and make an urgent donation towards the continuation of its mission to protect national parks throughout The Bahamas, visit its website: www.bnt.bs.