Please allow me to respond to a letter written by Mr Badal Persaud, and published in your newspaper on October 16, 2013 under the caption ‘Manatee pond filthy.’ I would first like to commend Mr Persaud’s concern for the Manatees’ wellbeing, and for his efforts to ensure they are properly taken care of. I visited the pond today, and noted that there is some floating debris. I have since asked my hardworking colleagues at the Commission to do their best to remove it from the pond. The majority of this debris is Manatee dung, which looks like floating cow dung. We regularly clean the dung from the pond, but keeping up with the Manatees’ digestive systems is an ongoing challenge. They are kept in the pond for safety, as we have had cases of persons trying to injure them when they are released into the larger canal system.
We have also recently increased the amount they are fed daily, and have begun to introduce floating weed, in addition to the regular grass, in an effort to maintain a more natural diet. The resulting increase in Manatee waste, combined with leftover feed from previous days, sometimes results in debris accumulating at the western end of the pond. We therefore have to increase the frequency with which the pond is cleaned.
I also agree with Mr Persaud that we need to relocate some of the Manatees, as they were originally moved from the Botanical Gardens to the Park during a particularly severe El Nino in the 1990s. We want to conduct this relocation using appropriate methods, so as not to injure any animals, or separate mothers from nursing calves. We have already engaged manatee experts from the Regional Activity Center for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife, and more recently the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership, and Sea2Shore. We hope to have these experts in the country as soon as possible to determine genetics, health and potential candidates for relocation. One positive note is that they have continued to breed in the Park, which suggests that they are not excessively stressed.
Of much greater immediate concern is the amount of plastic and styrofoam that enters the pond on a daily basis, particularly during weekend picnicking. Although many Park users adhere to the rules, littering in and around the manatee pond is on the increase. Even more disappointing is a recent incident where an employee pointed out a bin to a visitor, who then proceeded to discard the litter on the ground, with the argument that if they don’t litter, National Park workers would not have jobs. I believe that most visitors to the Park do not have this unfortunate attitude, and I would like to remind all concerned persons that the Park belongs to the people of Guyana, and should be treated as such. Although the Commission is tasked with administering the Park, we cannot do it alone. The Commission remains open to constructive advice, as with Mr Persaud, and to any assistance that can be provided as we work together to make the Park, and other green spaces, something that we can all be proud of.