CARIBBEAN PROPERTY MAGAZINE
Living, Working and Investing in the Caribbean
S P E C I A L F E A T U R E
Industrialised Trinidad Retains Impressive Biodiversity
by Reg Block
Previously I have written about unique natural features, environmental responsibility and sustainability in various parts of the Caribbean. Those articles explore various environmental problems, solutions and business opportunities in countries like; Dominica, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica.
My purpose is to raise environmental awareness for those planning to move to the Caribbean and Central America for retirement, relocation or to establish a business. When I have finished this series, I plan to have covered every country or region of the Caribbean.
In this article, I will describe general and unique features of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T). And in keeping with an on-going theme of sustainability, I hope to draw attention to the environmental sensitivities of these islands.
Additionally, despite T&T's status as the most industrialized Caribbean country, I want the reader to appreciate the Amazon-like diversity of flora and fauna found only on Trinidad and Tobago, and in no other region of the world. This special ecology is the true wealth of T&T and must be preserved for present and future generations to enjoy.
Trinidad and Tobago Overview
Trinidad and Tobago, with an area of 5,128 square kilometers, consists of two principal islands surrounded by 21 smaller islands. The country is located northeast of Venezuela and just south of Grenada, with Guyana southeast and Barbados northeast. With a population of 1.3 million, 96 percent of the nation's people live on Trinidad, and four percent on Tobago.
The government, based on a two party system, is best described as a liberal democratic republic.
The climate is tropical with two distinct seasons -dry for the first six months of the year and wet for the remainder of the year. The terrain consist of plains and mountains, with elevations of up to 3,085 feet (940 metres).
T&T is outside the "hurricane belt" and has avoided much of the major devastation experienced by other Caribbean countries.
The original inhabitants of the islands were the Arawakan and Carib peoples. However, after European contact in 1498 and the subsequent introduction of slavery and indentureship, the population gradually became characterized by a mixture of Indian, African, Middle Eastern, European and Chinese peoples. Today the principal language is English.
A Young Trinidadian
Unlike most Caribbean nations, T&T is an industrialized country and one of the most prosperous in the region, mostly because of its petroleum driven economy.
Furthermore, it has a brisk manufacturing sector and a growing tourism industry, with sugar cane as the backbone of its agricultural industry.
Flora and Fauna
T&T is often overlooked as an ecotourism destination, in favor of Central American countries like Costa Rica and Belize. This, however, is gradually changing as travelers become more aware of the eco-diversity that these unique southern Caribbean islands have to offer.
TOBAGO BOASTS ONE OF THE OLDEST PROTECTED FORESTS ON THE PLANET
Tobago boasts the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, one of the oldest protected forests on the planet -a forest typical of those found in the Amazon.
During the last ice age, T&T was connected to South America, from which many of its species originated. And, it's safe to say that the variety of life there is more diverse than nearly anywhere on the planet.
With over 2,300 species of flowering plants, 400 species of birds and 600 different butterflies, T&T is a preferred location for observing nature and making wildlife films and documentaries, including BBC's Vampires, Devil Birds and Spirits and Trials of Life by Sir David Attenborough.
Caroni Bird Sanctuary, a mangrove swamp surrounded by swamp grass, is famous among avid bird watchers, and it's home to Trinidad's national bird -the stunning Scarlet Ibis. The sanctuary is just south of Port of Spain between the ocean and Uriah Butler Expressway. A number of companies offer boat tours by appointment, typically departing in the late afternoon, when bird watching is at its best.
Asa Wright Nature Centre - Hawk
Other birds to watch include; purple honey creeper, green honey creeper, tufted coquette hummingbird, copper-rumped hummingbird, blue-crowned motmot, bearded bellbird, blue gray tanager, silver beaked tanager, boat-billed flycatcher, golden-headed mannequin, black-tailed tityra.
Tobago's Main Ridge Forest Reserve has hundreds of species of the most beautiful birds on the planet and they're fairly easy to watch.
Among them are the Red-billed Tropic Bird and the exotic and rare White-tailed Sabrewing Hummingbird; both are acclaimed for their exquisite beauty. If you're a serious bird watcher, experts say a visit to T&T will double your list of birds observed.
Despite early colonists having killed-off much of the fauna, there are still five species of turtle, like the Giant Leatherback, over 120 butterflies, like the stunning Blue Emperor, 24 species of snake, alligators, manatee, 24 species of lizard, 17 species of bat, including the fish-catching variety, armadillo, deer, wild pigs, wild dogs, anti-eaters, ocelot, Amazon parrots, howler monkeys and a sea alive with tropical game fish and Manta Rays -the Buccoo Reef, just off Tobago, compares with any top snorkeling and dive site in the Caribbean.
Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC), a 480 acre forest preserve in Trinidad's Central Range, is renowned for its lodge and research facility and it's considered the premier eco-tourism and bird watching destination in the region. Paths cut through forests make nature watching accessible -pink blossomed hibiscus shrubs, orchids, purple and yellow poui trees, lilies, orange immortelles, banyan, palm monkey's ladder vine and birds like white-bearded mannequins and black and white harlequins are just some of the sights to see.
AWNC can be reached at; Tel: (868) 667-4655) or http://www.asawright.org/
Trinidad is also known for its waterfalls set amid luscious tropical vegetation.
Maracas Waterfall, 91.54 metres high, is located in the upper part of Maracas Valley. This beautiful waterfall is about 21 kilometres from Port of Spain and can be reached by car, except for the last 2.5 kilometres which must be walked.
About nine miles from Port of Spain north of Diego Martin Village is Blue Basin Falls. After parking, the falls can be reached with a five minute walk.
Other waterfalls worth visiting are; Paria, Madamas, Rio Seco, Lalaja, Camelita, Edith, Rinkon, Aripo and Cyril's Bay.
Paria Falls -Trinidad
On Trinidad, other places of interest include; Point-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust where endangered birds are bred and returned to the wild and Nariva swamp home to alligators, anacondas, four-eyed fish and macaws. Also, in Port of Spain are the Botanic Gardens and Emperor Valley Zoo. On Tobago there are; the Botanic Gardens in Scarborough, Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Sanctuary and the wetlands of Bon Accord lagoon. (Point-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust (868) 637-5145, (868) 662-4040)
There are, of course, many more things to see and do on T&T. However, these are good places to start familiarizing yourself with the natural features of the islands. If you want information on hikes and tours, contact:
The Forestry Division
Long Circular Rd., Port of Spain,.Trinidad
Tel: (868) 622-4521/7476/7256/3217
Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club
Tel: (868) 625-3386/645-2132, evenings or weekends.
The Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club
Trinidad and Tobago Incoming Tour Operators Association
Tel: (868) 623-5096
Pollution is a problem everywhere in the world and T&T is no exception. Because of this, it is important that everyone thinking of relocating to the islands understands the issues and endeavors to become part of the solution, not the problem.
A principle area of concern is marine pollution, whereby various substances enter streams, rivers, wetlands and the surrounding oceans. These pollutants have the potential to alter the balance of nature, cause the destruction of many species of marine and aquatic life and disrupt related industries. Contaminants, including heavy metals, also affect human health, causing eye and skin infections, poisoning, vomiting, diarrhea and are linked to some chronic diseases.
With population growth, tourism and business development, pollution is increasing and in some areas raw sewage ends up waters and seas via various sources of drainage. Additionally, industry contributes to oils, water treatment wastes, solid wastes, pesticides and fertilizers, which alter water temperatures, and in some cases, are related to reef degradation.
Furthermore, many pollutants cause oxygen depletion in the water, resulting in the death of certain marine organisms.
POLLUTANTS HAVE ALSO BEEN KNOWN TO CLOG FISH GILLS CAUSING SIGNIFICANT FISH KILLS
Pollutants have also been known to clog fish gills causing significant fish kills, as documented in the Gulf of Paria. Mangroves swamps and wetlands are also affected -as a vital part of the marine system, they provide breeding grounds for many fish and shellfish.
Finding solutions begins with pollution reduction, enforcement of legislation, education and cultivating a respect for the environment.
T&T is rated 11th in the world for CO2 emissions per capita. CO2, is one of the primary greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contributes to global warming. Although T&T's national output of GHG is high, the primary source is heavy industrial process and not the general population.
Many of these large energy-based companies are foreign-owned.
Thus on an individual basis, residential emissions are about one tenth of those produced by countries like the USA and Canada. Still, emissions in the region are high and may be a contributor to higher incidences of respiratory illness.
T&T's Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is the primary agency responsible for coordinating environmental management activities. In 2003, it succeeded in converting the nation to unleaded gasoline, which helped lower emissions.
Other initiatives are also in place, and by 2020 T&T hopes to achieve environmental sustainability and the status of "developed nation."
As mentioned earlier in this article, eco-tourism is growing in T&T, and many resorts are aware of the delicate balance of the environment, and therefore employ environmentally responsible technologies and practices.
Eastern Caribbean Spider
For anyone planning to relocate in T&T and perhaps develop a business, eco-tourism should be at the top of the list, considering the variety of flora and fauna found on these islands. A little research on the internet, followed by a visit to the islands to check out the sights and the eco-tourism resorts is a good idea.
or example, at Bacolet Point on Tobago you'll find Beachcomber Cabins, an environmentally responsible, locally owned micro-resort that was built using locally manufactured and sourced materials. The resort is energetically self-sustaining, employing renewable energy sources. The resort is located above Minister Bay Beach where Disney's Swiss Family Robinson was filmed.
Other eco-resorts on T&T include; Cuffie River Nature Retreat, Footprints Eco Resort, Karawak Village Holistic Haven and Hotel, Paria Springs Eco Community, Acajou Hotel and Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge. These resorts, some inland and others on the ocean, offer different eco-experiences, but basically they share the similar environmental philosophies.
Many of the beaches on T&T are not recommended for swimming or snorkeling and some are nesting grounds for Giant Leatherback Turtles.
If you're looking for detailed descriptions of beaches, check out www.mytobago.info/beaches05.php.
The Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club, (http://www.wow.net/ttfnc/)
This organization's mandate is "to bring together persons interested in the study of natural history, the diffusion of knowledge thereof and the conservation of nature and natural resources."
Founded in 1891, it's one of the oldest clubs in T&T with around 250 members interested in birding, photography, geology, botany and the conservation and preservation of nature. Various groups meet weekly for excursions where they learn to identify wildlife and natural features. The club puts out two publications Living World Magazine, published annually, and Quarterly Bulletin for members.
Trinidad and Tobago Organic Agriculture Movement TTOAM
This is an organization promoting organic agriculture in T&T. Unfortunately, after much research I have been unable to find out much about what is going on with land certification or the extent of public interest in things organic
However, for what it's worth, below is the contact information for TTOAM. If you are looking for uncontaminated, certifiable land, perhaps TTOAM is a good place to begin your research.
TTOAM's coordinates are, P.O. Box 1229, Port-of-Spain,
There are a number of natural food restaurants and stores on T&T. You can find some of them listed on www.happycow.net.
Author: Reg Block lives in Vancouver, Canada. He is a freelance journalist with Canada's largest publisher, Canwest Global, where he writes for the Lowermainland Division and the Wellness section of the Surrey Now Newspaper. Prior, Reg was Special Projects Manager with Common Ground Magazine, Canada's oldest natural health and environment magazine. Reg plans to settle in the Caribbean when Rachel has finished school and accomplished her figure skating goals.
Email Reg Block
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