The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is upping the ante in the protection of biodiversity and the conservation of natural resources with its new draft Wildlife Manage-ment and Conservation Regulations, now being circulated for comment.
The proposed regulations, which carry heavy penalties, should be implemented between 2008 and 2009.
Speaking with this newspaper on Friday, Director of the Natural Resources Division of the EPA, Dr Indarjit Ramdass said that the regulations were crafted to bring together many pieces of regulations that were in existence but scattered under various agencies, concerning fish, wild birds and wildlife.
“These Regulations will complement the Species Protection Regulations (1999) which specifically addresses the wildlife trade. Additionally, the draft Regulations will help to establish a legal framework for wildlife management and conservation programmes, since the current legislation on wildlife are fragmented, restricted and old,” Dr Ramdass said.
He noted that the Environmental Protection Act of 1996 stipulates that it should take the necessary steps for the effective management of the natural environment so as to ensure conservation, protection and sustainable use of natural resources. According to Dr Ramdass, the regulations complement too the recently approved and launched Arapaima Management Plan in the harvesting and sale of arapaima in the hinterland communities.
He said that the Act also stipulates the establishment and maintenance of national parks and a protected areas system and a wildlife protection management programme.
The EPA has secured further support from the GOG/UNDP Capacity Building for the Management of Natural Resources and the Environment Project to facilitate the finalisation of these Regulations. “It is expected that the final document will be strengthened through further consultations while addressing the documented comments received by the EPA from stakeholders who were involved in the earlier consultations,” Dr Ramdass said.
According to Dr Ramdass, the development of the draft Regulations would address legislative issues relating to the conservation and management of Guyana’s wildlife resources; harvesting and use of wildlife within the country; identification of institutional roles of agencies that are responsible for the management of wildlife resources; and improvement of the decision-making process, leading towards sustainable wildlife management.
But he said that at present, the EPA does not have the human resources to adequately manage and monitor the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife. “It is proposed that the EPA will work with the Guyana Police Force, the hinterland communities, and relevant stakeholder agencies as outlined in Part II, Regulation 5 of the draft Regulations,” Dr Ramdass said.
According to Regulation 5, the EPA can appoint suitably qualified persons to be “Officers” for implementation and effective administration under the draft Regulations.
The regulations said that notwithstanding anything contained within them, “it shall not be unlawful for any person to kill or wound any wild animal in defence of himself or any other person if immediately and absolutely necessary.”
But the caveat is that the burden of proof that the animal has been killed or wounded in accordance with the provision will be on the person who has done the killing or wounding. This also goes for a person who feels that his land and home are threatened by a wild animal. In such cases, the person has an obligation under the regulations to report the circumstances of the killing in no more than seven days after the event and deliver the carcass to the nearest police station.
As part of its consultative strategy, the EPA circulated the draft Regulations to various stakeholders requesting comments and suggestions. A National Steering Committee for consultation on the Wildlife Management and Conservation Regulations was established on February 9, 2001. The EPA, in collaboration with Iwokrama, facilitated discussions with local communities in the various Regions with support from the Department for International Development (DFID) during 2002.
Ramdass said that the Initial Consultation Process included introductory meetings involving major stakeholders, meetings of the sub-groups on the wildlife trade and meetings in hinterland communities.
The meetings stated above involved various stakeholders including governmental organizations, NGOs and the private sector.
He stated that the current consultation process involves meetings and discussions with stakeholder agencies, two national consultation workshops and making the draft regulations available on the website for public comment.
The regulations state that any person who possesses any living wild animal without a Captive Wildlife Licence commits an offence and shall be liable to a fine of up to $80,000.
They said too that a person who sells, possesses for sale, exposes or offers for sale any wildlife except in accordance with the terms and conditions of a Commercial Licence commits an offence and shall be liable to a fine up to $500,000 and imprisonment for six months.
A person who sells, possesses for sale, exposes or offers for sale or otherwise deals in any wildlife except in accordance with the terms and conditions of a Commercial Licence commits an offence and shall be liable to a fine of up to $500,000 and imprisonment for six months, the regulations state.