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UIEA steps up fight against turtle slayings in SVG

UIEA steps up fight against turtle slayings in SVG

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22.MAY.09

by Omesha Spence

Another institution has stepped up its fight for the preservation of turtles, following the gruesome slaying of Leatherback turtles on Gorse Beach, Colonarie.{{more}} The Union Island Environmental Attackers (UIEA), are fighting for the life of the endangered Leatherback turtles, as they say the species provide many benefits, one being the growth of the tourism sector.

“This can be a good tourism product for us,” President of the UIEA Katrina Collins, said during an interview with Searchlight. Collins also expressed the need to conserve these turtles, as they are very special creatures and can form a part of an informative cultural package, that can be passed on to future generations. “If we kill them all, we get none…. Please do not destroy the turtles,” she pleaded.

Member of the group, Roseman Adams, who expressed his anger about the recent slayings of the Leatherback turtles, also expressed the dire need to keep the Leatherback turtles, as well as other turtle species alive. “We should continue to preserve them for our children to be able to enjoy them and learn from them,” he said.

Adams, who was trained in turtle watching by the Nature Seekers Inc. in Trinidad, said he visited the Turtle Villages in Trinidad, a popular tourist attraction, where tourists go to see endangered turtles in their natural environment. There are currently five turtle villages in Trinidad where the poaching of turtles is forbidden.

Adams added that it is the goal of the UIEA to create similar villages in Union Island, as well as the other Grenadine islands, to promote turtle watching as a tourist activity.

“We want to turn the project into a tourism product here on the island and hopefully create employment as well,” he said. The group conducts turtle watches on several beaches in Union Island, in which they take members of the public to see the turtles, while they lay their eggs, in the process, educating them about the habits of the creatures. Adams added that persons wishing to engage with turtles, must be accompanied by persons trained in the field.

Leatherback turtles come ashore three times (every 21 days) every year to lay their eggs. According to research, they lay about 110 eggs in one clutch and usually return to the place in which they were born to lay their eggs.

Senior Experience Marketing Officer, at the St Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority, Belinda Francis, told Searchlight, that there are currently no turtle watching programmes, as part of the tourism packages offered in St. Vincent. She, however indicated, that there may be a future for such a programme, once proper research is done to determine the demand for the product in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “It could be something we are looking at for the future,” she said.

Collins added that the group is very passionate about their fight to preserve the turtles. “This turtle watching programme has become an exciting adventure for all of us,” she said. “We will do whatever it takes so that persons can be informed.”

On Thursday 30 April 2009, villagers of Colonarie on mainland St. Vincent, discovered the remains of three slaughtered turtles, which had come ashore to lay their eggs. Appeals were made by the Wild Life Protection officer, Fitzroy Springer, as well as Chief Fisheries Officer, Raymond Ryan, to stop the poaching of turtles. Ryan, in an interview with Searchlight stated that if the killings continue, more serious penalties will have to be considered. The penalty for killing or harming turtles, during closed season is, $5,000.

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