by Prof. Stanley Temple
Ever since the first human inventor created a weapon that could be used for hunting, we have been defying the fundamental rules of predatory-prey relationships and hunting species to extinction. The proof is documented clearly in the earliest examples of human art. These Paleolithic cave paintings depict wildlife, not any wildlife but the game species that were important resources for early man.
Today, we know that most of these animals went extinct shortly after the paintings were being made, the victims of over-kill by human hunters. Perhaps the paintings represent the first evidence that people were beginning to feel the consequences of the extinction crisis they had created. It has been suggested that the cave paintings were desperate invocations for mystical help in restoring the dwindling game. Of course, they failed.
Since then, human beings have continued to over kill animals and cause their extinction, and as our numbers and technologies expanded we have become even more threatening predators. During this century alone we have recklessly caused the extinction or endangerment of many species. In North America, the Passenger Pigeon, once the most abundant bird on the continent, was commercially hunted to extinction. Around the world, we have ruthlessly persecuted large predators, such as wolves and big cats, and most of them are endangered today. Other species are over-killed inadvertently, the innocent victims of human technology.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the great concentrations of whales that formerly wintered in the Gulf of Paria were wiped out, several game species no longer exist in Tobago, pet birds like the Blue-and-gold Macaw and Twa-twa exist in cages but not in the wild, beneficial snakes are killed mindlessly and marine turtles are deliberately killed or incidentally drowned in fishing gear.
We must protect our wildlife from over-kill by enforcing hunting regulations and defending the integrity of Wildlife Sanctuaries and Prohibited Areas.
The challenge is great. Many of Tobago's animals are at risk from over-kill, and they need all the help we can provide.
Dr. Stanley Temple is a Professor of Conservation at the University of