Press Release:– The government of St. Lucia is expected to receive a new state -of -the -art Wildlife Conservation and Education Center (WCEC) in July which is expected to bring in substantial revenue from tourism, help with the teaching of conservation on the island and reduce stress on the government budget as it relates to conservation work.
The center which is currently being constructed at the Union Forestry Complex in Castries, Saint Lucia is being fully funded by the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP) at a cost of $ 2.5 million dollars and is expected to be the first of its kind in the region.
One of the main ideas behind the center is to have all revenue after operation cost going towards conservation work on the island.
Construction is moving apace and just last week a team of professional mural artists from artefx were brought in from overseas to spray paint the facility with the intention of capturing the landscape and the indigenous St. Lucian wildlife that will be housed at the center.
The facility which replaces the union zoo will include; a coffee shop , a gift shop that will sell handcraft products produce by locals, a major free flight aviary and a free flight hall where a piece of St. Lucia’s rainforest will be at the center of the venue and all of St. Lucia’s wildlife will on display.
Children and adults alike from across the country will be able to visit the facility to learn about the nation’s wildlife as well as conservation and it importance to the country among other activities.
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Co-operatives, Ezechiel Junior Joseph said the idea for the center came about following discussion with ACTP.
He disclosed that the government of St. Lucia and ACTP began working on a joint program as it pertains to a breeding loan agreement since the government was very concerned about climate change and the impact that it was having on the endangered native parrot.
“We believe in our parrots which is very indigenous to us, we needed to think outside of the box and be proactive to create a safety net in the event that we would suffer any negative impact of climate change. In fact two years ago Dominica give you a typical example of what we are thinking,” said the Minister on what inspired the partnership between St. Lucia and ACTP. The agreement was fully supported by his government in 2010 and since then the government and ACTP has been working steadfast in conservation with great success. “So following our successful implementation on the many programs we have put together, ACTP and the department of forestry decided on how we can really advance the success stories in St. Lucia and also in the region,” said Joseph.
He said that based on discussion with his counterparts in the region they decided that there are a number of things that need to be done, keeping in mind that there is a need for programs that can protect the environment. So the idea of a wildlife center was born.
Joseph explained that the idea was discuss with ACTP for a number of months and following the go ahead by cabinet they decided to proceed with the project. “And am sure it will really go a long way,” said the Minister, adding that they are looking to see how they can expand it to the other OECS countries mainly Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The agriculture minister said that the government is optimistic about tapping into the tourism industry when the center is completed. “The location is very close to our main ports and of course our school children will benefit because we are also looking at an educational program,” said Joseph.
The construction of the wildlife center should be completed by July, however staff would be train on how to operate and manage the facility, therefore Joseph said they are hoping to have the facility in operation before the commencement of the tourist season in October. The Ministry of Tourism is in the process of engaging the major tour operators so that the center can be added into the plans for tourist venues.
Besides the center, the government and ACTP are looking at doing more work in the schools to educate the children on climate change and what they can do to mitigate against the negative impact of climate change ,“and that’s why am happy with the center because this center can help in doing the outreach program,” said the minister.
He assured that the breeding loan agreement is successful and the country is seeing an increase in the parrots but he was quick to add that there is also problems with farmers cultivating in the forest and creating problems for the parrot. So there are discussion on how to assist famers so that they would not invade the while life.
“On behalf of the government and the department of forestry I want to express my appreciation to the team at ACTP for agreeing to implement this program in St. Lucia,” said the Agriculture Minister.
Alfred Prospere , Acting Chief Forestry Officer in St. Lucia said he feels very good to see such a remarkable facility all funded by ACTP .
“I want to take the opportunity to thank ACTP for making this goodwill gesture to the government and people of St. Lucia and we look forward to working and collaborating with ACTP to ensure that the building is fully operational and we can see a large influx of persons visiting the center not too far from now,” said Prospere, adding that in the past when the zoo was operational there were a lot more locals, but with the wildlife center he is expecting overseas visitors as well.
President of ACTP Martin Guth pledged his organization’s continued commitment to assisting the government and people of St. Lucia. He said one of the reason ACTP is funding the project is because he saw the need for persons to learn more about conservation and for the country to have a sustainable conservation project.
“The idea is to have sustainable funds for conservation activities on the island so that the budget will not be affected. ACTP will help to run the facility professionally with the government and all the income will go to conservation, it is not going in any other direction,” assured the ACTP president.
“We want to have a piece of the St. Lucian rainforest in the center of the facility so to ensure that everyone who comes off the cruise ship has the guarantee to see the St. Lucia wildlife. We also want to have a gift shop with local gifts that are handcraft from locals and we will have a coffee shop. Also we use it for local education which means schools can come and use it to learn,” said Guth on his expectation of the wildlife center. Teachers are also expected to learn about conservation so that they can teach students on it.
ACTP has contracted Deli Nature/ Beduco Petfood NV a Belgium food company to supply the food for the animals at the wildlife center. The company will also play a role when similar projects are implemented in St. Vincent and Dominica.
So as plans are being put in place for the opening of the facility, it is expected that Deli Nature will support community groups and fund community activities as part of their corporate responsibilities.