Forestry Department sends message with conviction of two men for having iguanas outside of hunting season
“Respect the season, and give the animals a chance,” was the message from the Forestry Department this week at the sentencing of two men nabbed with four Iguanas outside of the hunting season.
“Well your honour I don’t really hunt Iguana you know,” Curtis ‘Shooter’ Small told Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett this Tuesday at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court. The origins of his nickname is decidedly from football and nothing else, according to ‘Shooter’.
“I go with the dogs them,” the Ottley Hall resident noted.
This did not quite work out as an excuse for the 29-year-old, charged alongside 25-year-old Kimal Harry, for, on September 12 of 2018, illegally possessing wildlife during the closed season.
“The dog is a part of the process,” the magistrate countered, saying that he knows they shake the animals down, and then the dogs kill them when they’re on the ground.
Small also claimed not to have known at the time when the closed season ends.
“Your honour, over the years, just before the hunting season starts, which is the 1st of October, we have been receiving reports a lot in September,” Bradford Latham, Law Compliance and Enforcement Officer for the Forestry Department told the magistrate.
“Persons try to start hunting before the official season,” he continued, “so this is something that we have been on the lookout for.”
Latham was accompanied to the courtroom with three other Forestry Officers.
The contingent listened as Latham told Burnett, “This is something that we have been warning persons against doing. Wait until the official season starts.”
Latham said they wanted to transmit a strong message to the public to “Respect the season, and give the animals a chance to be able to recover the population.”
While saying that they were looking for a fine to be imposed, the Forestry Officer added “These two gentlemen here were very cooperative, we didn’t get any resistance from them.”
It was the Forestry Officers themselves who were patrolling in the area of Ottley Hall on September 12, 2018, when, at approximately 2:15 pm, they spotted the defendants walking in the area of the marina. The Officers were patrolling the area because of information received. A search of the multi coloured backpack of Small revealed iguanas within. Small and Harry had four Iguanas in total, two alive and two dead. The two iguanas that were alive were released into the wild, and the two dead animals were taken into evidence.
The two defendants had come prepared to pay a fine for their transgressions, and the magistrate said that depending on the amount they had with them, he would determine their sentence.
Small revealed that he had $500 on him, while Harry offered $300.
Latham noted that the maximum fine that could be imposed is $2000.
“I wish I could have imposed a penalty on them in a way that the money could go to you, to be used by Forestry,” the magistrate told Latham. However, he stated, “But the way that things are done now, any fine that is imposed is going to the consolidated fund.”
“For a matter like this, it would have been good if the money could go to you, to be used to develop the work that you’re doing at Forestry,” Burnett commented.
However, the magistrate, in noting that the men cooperated with the police, showed remorse, did not carry the court through a trial, and had no previous convictions of a similar nature, revealed that he was “contemplating giving them a break.”
He also stated that one of the defendants mentioned having school children to take care of.
“Yes, I know it may be a surprise, but sometimes you may have to show mercy to others, and I believe I show a lot of mercy in this court,” Burnett commented.
“I expect better for both of you. I am going to give y’all a chance, I’m not going to impose any fine on you, but I expect you all to do better, and talk to your friends as well, and tell them not to do this,” the magistrate chided.
However, there was still one more issue to determine concerning the meat. The Forestry Officers noted that the Iguanas could be disposed of, or buried. This caused some noise of disbelief in the courtroom, causing Latham to point out that the meat had been kept for a very long time. The magistrate left the dead iguanas to the care of Latham.
Section 15(1) c of the Wildlife Protection Act(2009), under which the men were charged, states that any person who has in his possession any species of wildlife, the nest or egg thereof, during the period of a close season for that species of wildlife if guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of two thousand dollars, and to imprisonment for six months.
The Forestry Department will continue to patrol, especially in September when miscreants are looking to capture the biggest of the animals before the season begins.