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Conservation

In order to achieve its conservation objectives we at Paria Springs started the Paria Springs Trust. It is a non-profit company whose objective is conservation. As noted earlier conservation is the foremost objective of the Paria Springs Project. Ecotourism if done properly can positively affect the way people think and their attitudes towards nature and their culture along with providing financial and social benefits to locals. We at Paria Springs strongly believe that the fundamental basis of ecotourism is conservation of nature and humanity. In short Paria Springs Trust will put the 'eco' into the Paria Springs Ecotourism Project.

In order to achieve this, the following aims and objectives of Paria Springs Trust were developed.

  1. Development and promotion of research projects that cover a wide variety of disciplines, which are geared towards the development, and promotion of all aspects of conservation and community.
  2. Use of research projects to inform the development and promotion of effective conservation projects.
  3. The co-operation with national and international, public and private organizations in the development and promotion of the research projects.
  4. The attracting of funds to Paria Springs Trust from national and international, public and private organizations, for:
    • The development and promotion of research projects
    • The development and promotion of conservation education projects
    • The development and promotion of conservation advocacy projects
    • The development and promotion conservation projects
    • The purchase of lands for the purpose of conservation of biodiversity and culture
    • The general execution of the day-to-day affairs of Paria Springs Trust
  5. Advocacy of conservation and steps towards mitigating unsound and unsustainable environmental practices.
  6. Empowerment and mobilization of the community through education, and the planning and implementation of common goals through community programs in an enabling environment.

Paria Springs Trust's lead conservation project is an Ocelot Conservation Project. The Ocelot is a medium sized wildcat that is found in many areas of South and Central America and in Trinidad. It is Trinidad's only wildcat. Both internationally and in Trinidad the Ocelot is endangered. It is our rainforests' top predator and keystone specie in the ecology of our forests and other natural areas.

The Ocelot Conservation Project is directed into several areas of focus: Education, research, advocacy, and flora and fauna protection schemes. This project shall be the main project from which all other projects shall emanate from. The Ocelot was chosen as the lead project and main focus of Paria Springs Trust for several reasons:

  • It is listed as endangered species both nationally and worldwide and therefore is in dire need of conservation.
  • In order to conserve the Ocelot large tracts of natural habitats will have to be conserved, this in turn will conserve many other endangered species of flora and fauna such as the Trinidad Piping Guan and the Golden Tree Frog.
  • It is a keystone species and top predator of most of the natural habitats on Trinidad; hence if it is healthy this in turn means that these habitats are healthy.
  • It ranges throughout Trinidad and has been extirpated from Tobago; hence Paria Springs Trust can legitimately do Ocelot conservation programmes in any part of either island.
  • It is a beautiful animal that can be used to bring out an emotional response from humans, thus conservation programmes can be more effective.
  • No other national or international organization is even attempting to conserve what remains of Trinidad and Tobago's Ocelot population; hence something has to be done now before it is lost from Trinidad and Tobago and possibly the planet.
  • No other life form or habitat fulfilled all these requirements in Trinidad or Tobago.

Paria Springs Trust proposes a multifaceted project aimed at conserving the Ocelot that will ultimately spearhead the Trust's ultimate goal of conserving Trinidad and Tobago's natural and cultural heritage. This approach is designed to achieve lasting conservation of the Ocelot population in Trinidad and possible reintroduction of this keystone predator to Tobago. The project will commence once funding is secured and fieldwork is expected to commence within three months of that. The project will be ongoing and incur start up expenses and annual recurrent expenditure.

The two primary threats in Trinidad and Tobago to a thriving Ocelot population are hunting and habitat destruction. In order to combat these threats Paria Springs Trust will use three distinct yet synergistic approaches. These are education, science and advocacy.

Paria Springs Trust proposes an Ocelot Research and Conservation Project that will cover all aspects of Ocelot life in Trinidad and Tobago. Where research into the population of Ocelots around Paria Springs (Ocelots have been seen here, with one recently being seen on the Paria Springs Estate) and else where in Trinidad will be carried out so that their specific population size, ecology and natural history will be fully understood, this will be used to shape and develop the conservation programme. In conjunction with this will be and Ocelot Conservation Education Programme initially targeting the rural communities of Trinidad, starting with Brasso Seco, Grande Riverre and Arena. Supporting all this will be an advocacy programme supported with brochures, posters, and a documentary made on the conservation of the Ocelot, all which will be used to gain empathy and support for the Ocelot and its conservation.

The reason for scientific study of the Ocelots in Trinidad is that each population of Ocelots take on their own characteristics adapted to suit the terrain, availability of food and other unique conditions that apply. Hence, conservation will only be effective when the ecology of the Ocelots in each area of Trinidad, both specifically as it applies to the ocelots and generally as it applies to the habitat, is fully understood. It is expected that conservation efforts will have to meet the Ocelot's needs for large land space for their territories, suitable and abundant prey to sustain a healthy diet and suitable habitat for reproduction. Primarily this will mean conservation of large tracts of land in which pristine forest ecosystems exist. This protection can start immediately with the purchase of land for conservation, then starting reforestation efforts on these lands to ensure the Ocelots have food sources and habitat for reproduction. However, in order to be effective long term protection will have to be shaped by the data resulting from the research.

In order to attain good data on the ecology of the Ocelot monitoring programmes will be set up to see if the Ocelot populations are still declining, are stabilized, or growing, then based on which scenario is happening decisions can be taken to change the conservation tactics to suit the Ocelots' changing needs. These programmes will include trapping individual Ocelots and placing tracking collars on them. These animals will be tracked for long durations to see where they will be feeding, if they interact with eachother and so on. Along with this will be quantitative and qualitative surveys of the flora and fauna found in the Ocelots' habitats. All this data will be used to develop and put into effect conservation programmes that will ensure the Ocelots and their Habitats' sustained lives. For instance, if the conservation efforts are successful in stabilizing the population but not in increasing it, then a breeding and release program may be developed to increase the population.

The basic premise for the Ocelot Conservation Education Programme is that no matter what laws are passed for the conservation of endangered species, if rural communities do not wish to conserve them the laws have little to nil effect, hence they are doomed to failure. Consequently, what is required is a change of attitude. This attitude change can be achieved through education programmes. Three communities will be used as the start for this education programme. These are Brasso Seco, Grande Riverre and Arena. The reason for this is not just because Paria Springs Trust is involved in these communities but also because they have a burgeoning ecotourism efforts there that include conservation components that have been started. Later the program will then be expanded to other communities trough out Trinidad and Tobago such as Plum Mitan, Tamana and Piparo that also have these ecotourism drives. Participants in the Education Programs will gain knowledge about Ocelot Conservation, conservation of nature in general and be able to give short lectures on those topics. They will also gain skills in tracking Ocelots and Tourguiding. These skills will ensure the best students will be able to gain employment from Paria Springs Trust as a lecturer or as an Ocelot tracker, or from Paria Springs Eco-Community as a Tour guide.

Advocacy aspects to the project will include informative conservation videos, brochures and posters, which will bring awareness of the need to conserve the Ocelot to the population at large. Representatives of Paria Springs Trust will attend regular community meetings throughout the two islands at which brochures will be handed out with a short but inspiring talk or a showing of the video on the Ocelot and the need to conserve it. The posters will be placed in Community Centres, Post Offices, Rum Shops and other meeting points to support these meetings. This will be coupled with a documentary that will be made of the Ocelot in its natural habitat demonstrating its beauty, ecology and why it must be conserved and the work being done by Paria Springs Trust to conserve it. The documentary will also highlight the Ocelot's primary habitat, the rainforest, and its unique and beautiful inhabitants. These advocacy programs will also be taken to Government agencies that would be involved in developing laws, development of national parks, and other endeavours that would impact on the conservation programs.

Plans have been laid for the construction of a Learning Centre on the Paria Springs Estate that will house laboratories, a library, a lecture hall with modern audio-visual facilities, and a display area. The Learning Centre will be used as the base for all research, education and advocacy projects and will be the home of Paria Springs Trust.

Paria Springs Trust will be working with the various stakeholders in conservation and ecotourism in Trinidad and Tobago including conservation Non Government Organizations, Community Based Organizations in the areas where projects will be undertaken and others. These stakeholders include the funders, The Forestry Division, The Environmental Management Authority, The Caribbean Forest Conservation Association, The University of the West Indies, Santa Clara University, Gayap, The Rainforest Coalition, The United Nations GEF Fund, The Brasso Seco, Paria Tourism Action Committee, The Grande Riverre Tourism Action Committee, The Asa Wright Nature Centre, and several others. Paria Springs Trust will work with these organizations in a spirit of cooperation where expertise, manpower, support and many other much need forms of collaboration would be shared to ensure the success of all conservation and ecotourism projects. For instance The Forestry Division is in much need of good data on many endangered forms of wildlife, they will work with Paria Springs Trust by providing Rangers to assist in the collection of data and by ensuring the needed government approvals are seen to. The two organizations will work together on proper policing of conservation areas.

Funding

To realise all the conservation projects and for the construction of the Learning Centre funding is being sought. These funds will be received in the form of grants, donations or gifts. Thus far we are pleased to say that funds have been received from the Tropical Rainforest Coalition (Thanks a million guys). These have been used to conduct baseline surveys of the vegetation and ornithology of the Paria Springs Estate and some summer education programmes for school children. We would also like to say thanks to Santa Clara University and the University for their support of this project.

If you or your organization is interested in funding Paria Springs Trust, please contact Courtenay Rooks.