Monday, April 5, 2010

Eeyore meets Victor Meldrew

My friend really depressed me out today. She would be upset if she knew this, but she’s far to busy to read this missive, so she’ll never know.
And it’s not as if she told me something that deep-down I didn’t already know. But when someone actually puts it into words – well, it’s depressing.
She caught me on the way back from looking at a release site for our pigeon near Salvapan (an enclave of Belmopan, and the birds’ point of origin)
The pigeon and I had already decided that the site wasn’t suitable and more importantly, there were actually very few pigeons there. She was surprised I had even contemplated it. I cautiously asked her if they ate pigeons – she replied ‘yes, of course’ (as if I’m stupid) and then proceeded to tell me how her baby-sitter asked her if she would like any parrots: apparently the brother was going out this weekend to get lots. My friend declined – the girl persisted: “Are you sure?” she said “they taste lovely”.

So there you have it. It’s not enough that native Belizeans think it’s still okay to eat iguanas during nesting season, or make soup from the critically endangered Hicatee turtle, or take a parrot from the wild and put it in a cage. We now have a new generation of immigrants who think nothing of chowing down on roast parrot on a Sunday afternoon. They care to learn nothing from the fact that their mother country (El Salvador) has already managed to eradicate the white-fronted parrot, that it is illegal to touch them in Belize, that it is quite frankly, bloody rude to come into someone else’s country, as their guest, and systematically destroy their culture, history and wildlife, just as they have in their own country, without so much as a backward glance.

To teach a generation of children to respect and value wildlife rather than treat it with apathy and indifference is one challenge, but to convince an immigrant population of primarily Spanish-speakers that those free-flying creatures are not theirs for the taking – well, that’s darn near impossible. Couldn't this stuff be highlighted during the immigration process? Couldn't there be a form they sign to say they understand that wildlife is protected and they don't have a right to help themselves? Shouldn't awareness of the laws governing behaviour in your adopted country be as important as the National Anthem and the National Prayer?
Yes – I’m an immigrant too – so what’s your point?? (I told you I was depressed – I get cranky when I’m depressed)

I cautiously await the results of the 10-year population and housing census in late May. I suspect we are all in for a shock. The schools are overflowing and the current immigration and birth statistics are alarming. There’s only one way for this population to go, and that’s out into the forests with bulldozers and flame throwers.

Robin Brockett and I often talk around this subject. Most of those entering Belize now are catholic, which means future numbers cannot be controlled. The county can barely feed, clothe, house and educate the children it has now. Public sector employment is out of control and the majority of the poor immigrant field workers don’t earn enough to pay tax, and neither will their children, always assuming they can get a job.

How can we get ahead of these kids, convince them that wildlife is an essential part of the economy? How do you tell a family on the poverty line not to trap and kill peccary because it’s endangered, when their family is starving and this animal means nothing more to them than food on the table? What is the value in ‘rescuing’ 2 parrots, when just down the road a single family is trapping 10 for their lunch, or selling 20 as disposable pets, or shooting 50 because they might have eaten a bit of orange blossom.

If anyone has the answer, apart from sailing off into the sunset whilst trying to avoid the Pacific Garbage Gyre and the leaching tanker off the GBR in the process, I’d be very grateful.
Tomorrow I’m sure I will magically awaken as my old optimistic self. For today, I feel a beer coming on.


  1. i am also thinking about this problem of creating illness by these pigeons, as pigeon control is must for the safety of kids also.
    birds control

  2. Not a problem in Belize - I found one lonely bird yesterday! However, I appreciate they are a serious issue in larger cities around the world, and I'm glad to see you have humane ways of repelling them on your website.