Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis has announced that the government has officially designated the Scarlet Ibis as an Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS).
The Ministry of Planning and Development has responsibility for the environment.
The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) proposed the designation based on scientific research and observation of the species’ population trends as well as their local and international ecological importance and based on the results of this, sought the need to enhance their legal status to ensure their continued protection.
Despite the Scarlet Ibis’ previous protective legal status and that of its major breeding habitat the Caroni Swamp, the species continued to face the threat of poaching and habitat destruction.
The designation of an ESS will offer additional protection with punitive measures, specifically in accordance with section 70 (2) of the Environmental Management Act, Chapter 35:05, which states ‘any person who knowingly or recklessly endangers or adversely impacts the species will be liable to a fine of $100,000.00 and imprisonment for two (2) years’.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries supports this declaration.
According to the standards and guidelines for designation of an ESS as set out by the ESS rules 2001 the Scarlet Ibis has been designated:
• Because it is indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago.
• To prevent the species from facing extinction.
• The Scarlet Ibis is protected under the Conservation of Wildlife Act and along with the Caroni Swamp it is recognized as having international importance.
The Scarlet Ibis is one of the national birds of Trinidad and Tobago and appears on the country’s Coat of Arms and the one dollar bill.
The species is found in habitats along the west and south coasts of Trinidad, however, the only know breeding habitat is the Caroni Swamp.
The limited locations of the birds’ occurrence make the populations of the species vulnerable to factors such as climate change, habitat deterioration and illegal activities such as poaching.