The Forestry Department has issued a warning to the public against capturing protected animals or buying, selling, or consuming their meat amid Jounen Kweyol observances.
Senior Wildlife Protection Officer Pius Haynes issued the warning as he announced a probe into a flyer offering ‘wild meat’ for sale, including the Saint Lucia iguana, and the manicou.
Haynes told St Lucia Times that both animals are protected, so it is illegal to hunt, poach or kill them, or sell their meat.
“It is an offence under the Wildlife Protection Act,” the senior Forestry Department official explained.
Haynes warned that once the authorities catch people breaching the Wildlife Protection Act, the transgressors will face the full brunt of the law.
“Anyone who is caught in this illegal activity on summary conviction they will be requested to pay a fine of up to $EC 5000 or spend at least twelve months in prison,” he stated.
He recalled that the Forestry Department had in the past alerted the public to the need to adhere to the wildlife regulations and conserve protected species.
Haynes noted that typically around the observance of Jounen Kweyol, people hunt and poach protected wildlife.
According to Haynes, currently, in its natural habitat, the Saint Lucia iguana is quite vulnerable and faces several threats to its survival, including habitat loss due to the conversion of forest land to facilitate agriculture and other forms of development.
He told St Lucia Times that in addition to habitat loss, other animals like the small Asian mongoose, stray dogs, and cats target iguanas, iguana eggs, and hatchlings.
He said another threat is the green iguana, an invasive species.
“We do not want the invasive green iguana to mate with the Saint Lucia iguana. That would create a hybrid, and that would make a lot of problems for our iguana as a species,” he explained.