The Scarlet Ibis is the national bird of Trinidad and also Tobago. (Photo by Faraaz Abdool)

Flying short over the water and also glowing excellent red in the light of the setup sun, countless Scarlet Ibis quietly assemble at your roosting site. While the Tricolored Herons and bright white Snowy Egrets disappear into the cover of the mangroves, the Scarlet Ibis continue to be perched on top, dotting the dark eco-friendly with extreme bursts the red. To witness this spectacular ritual— a day-to-day occurrence in the Caroni Swamp in Trinidad—is to experience one of the most extraordinary events in the organic world.

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The Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber) is both culturally and also economically crucial to the pair island country of Trinidad and Tobago. Once the nation gained independence in 1962, it to be fitting to explain the Scarlet Ibis as the nationwide bird and also it is featured prominently top top the nation’s coat that arms and also one disagreement bill. Due to the fact that at the very least the early on 1970s, bird-watching ecotours in Caroni Swamp to be generating over $1 million TTD annually. Today, the swamp and the ibis are globally known together a “must-see” herbal treasure, and also the ecotourism industry continues to assistance the livelihoods of plenty of Trinidadians.

Scarlet Ibis go back to their roosting site after a work of foraging. (Photo by Jessica Rozek)

Unfortunately, the Scarlet Ibis is additionally coveted for an additional reason: that meat. In an interview last month, the Chief game Warden recognized that the bird is a black industry delicacy illegally served at elite parties, control the an ideas for poaching. It has been speculated the eating the national bird is a status symbol. In 2013, a guy with 18 ibis carcasses to be sentenced to 18 month in jail (though that was permitted to serve them concurrently). And just this summer, three human being were arrested in the possession of ibis carcasses and blasted on social media by Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries Minister Clarence Rambharat. His comments were extensively shared and sparked dozens the newspaper articles, through the overcome public calling for action.

This photo of poached Scarlet Ibis was mutual on social media through Minister Clarence Rambharat in respectable 2017, resulting in public outrage. (Photo through Clarence Rambharat)

The nationwide bird has actually a long background of persecution and also is very sensitive come disturbance. As beforehand as the 1860s, early american records warn that “a fierce war has been make on this bird…already it come in fewer numbers and soon it will be really rare.” Other reports from the beforehand 1930s and 1950s acknowledge that the Scarlet Ibis space “shot ruthlessly for food or so-called sport” and that castle are an extremely wary as a consequence. Richard ffrench, the neotropical ornithologist based in Trinidad, noted that in the beginning of the 20th century, searching prevented the Scarlet Ibis from reproduction on the island till 1953.

In 2013, poachers were caught with 18 dead Scarlet Ibis. (Photo by Rishi Ragoonath)

Currently, the well for searching or possessing the Scarlet Ibis is just $1,000 TTD (~$150 USD) or three months in prison. However due come the huge expanse the the Caroni Swamp and limited manpower, enforcement is difficult. In 2010, six people were fined $750 TT each for poaching offences that took ar in 2007. Surprisingly, this significant the an initial time in the country’s background that someone to be convicted of searching the Scarlet Ibis.

Minister Rambharat has petitioned the environmental Management authority (EMA) to initiate the procedure to readjust the designation of the Scarlet Ibis come an Environmentally Sensitive types (ESS). Under this safeguarded status, poachers can receive a best of a $100,000 TTD well or increase to two years imprisonment. An ESS status would likewise facilitate interagency and also joint patrols in Caroni Swamp, boosting warden and also police presence. In addition, the EMA is exploring changing the status of the Caroni Swamp to an Environmentally sensitive Area (ESA). The swamp is already designated a Ramsar site (1993) and a prohibition Area under the woodlands Acts.

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Young moko jumbie performers in Trinidad progressive awareness around the plight of the Scarlet Ibis. (Photo by Alice Yard)

Even young Trinidadians are increasing awareness around the poaching of the national bird. In August, 45 performers age 9-17 years old from the Moko Jumbie cultural Camp dressed as Scarlet Ibis and also marched in the capital’s Queen’s Park Savannah. This Caribbean stilt-walking art type is usual during carnival season, and also the camp’s mission is to keep this custom and create cultural legacies by engaging children. It was a terrific idea to integrate this unique cultural heritage with the natural heritage of the Scarlet Ibis! Click below to watch the video.