Environment TO BAGO new slett er
Volume 2 Issue 4 December 2008
n vi r on m e n t TO-
BAGO (ET) is a non-
government, non-profit, vol- The Twelve Days of Christmas
unteer organisation , not
subsidized by any one group, Environment TOBAGO
corporation or government
Founded in 1995, ET is a On the first day of Christmas E-Tech gave to me Cove Industrial Estate.
proactive, advocacy group
that campaigns against nega-
This was an area of 143 acres of wood & scrub and wetland, a natural home for 56 va-
tive environmental activities rieties of birds one of them – a grey heron not spotted since 1895, very rare.
throughout Tobago. We
achieve this through a variety
On the second day of Christmas they cleared every tree.
of community an environ- There were a number of very old & beautiful trees on this land. Most of them were
mental outreach programmes. marked to be preserved. However they were all cut down & burnt – which was an
Environment TOBAGO is “accident”
funded mainly through grants On the third day of Christmas an enormous drain was installed.
and membership fees. These This is to stop the land from flooding as there are no trees to absorb water. No filtra-
funds go back into implement-
ing our projects. We are tion pond erected to facilitate water runoff; a “lake” has therefore formed alongside
grateful to all our sponsors the drain. The installation of a large pump is facilitating this process. It is becoming a
over the years and thank
them for their continued breeding ground for mosquitos.
support On the fourth day of Christmas drainage opened to the sea
The aim is for the water from the drainage system to enter the sea, mixing with sea
water & smothering the pristine Cove reefs.
On the fifth day of Christmas WASA damaged for me the Flying Reefs.
Although “unfortunate” this is necessary to run a pipe out to sea to dispose of waste
W hat’s inside waterfor the new sewage system.
On the sixth day of Christmas the mangrove in Bon Accord was filled in
The Twelve Days of 1 This area included in the Buccoo Marine Park- Environmentally Sensitive Area- ESA.
Christmas “NO NET LOSS OF WETLANDS” in development is our government policy.
On the seventh day of Christmas a New Years resolution- Solve Studley
Pilot project: Belle 2
Garden Waterland Park Landfill.
This toxic situation- leachate destroying reefs, the flies and odours affecting the resi-
My visit to Surinam 5 dents.
Watch out for those 5 On the eighth day of Christmas my government plans for me a new jetty at
Tobago spider survey This will bring in huge cruise liners with hundreds of passengers who will then be taken
in maxi taxis to other parts of the island. This will bring in little to no revenue for the
Science, Technology 6 village & will clog the roads so nobody else can get in or out. The social impact will be
and Media conference
enormous. Not to mention the damage to the marine environment both during con-
Book Review 7 struction and post construction from gasoline and bilge water.
What’s Happening @ 9 On the ninth day of Christmas WASA wants to give to me two desalination
One at Charlotteville & one at Cove. We have enough wells & water for years to
contributors come. The damage to land & sea will be enormous. Reservoirs need to be cleaned and
greater holding capacity added.
Volume 2 Issue 4 Page 3
emergency medical advice should be taken.
We need to keep a very close watch for these fish and as soon as one is spot-
ted it should be reported to a group called “REEF”. They will want the day, time, loca-
tion and size of the fish and will help organize a collection and removal effort.
The only upside to this is that these fish are edible. Only the spines are venom-
ous and once they have been cut off—very carefully—the fish can then be cooked at
very high temperatures and they are supposed to taste good. Restaurants in the Baha-
mas are currently serving Lionfish on their menus as a way to help reduce the popula-
There are very few species of anything that we should hunt to extinction but
this is one of them.
To save your fish please KEEP A WATCH AND REPORT any sightings to
REEF. You will find a form on http://www.reef.org/programs/exoitc/report. You can also
pick up additional information on REEF’s website which is http://www.reef.org/
programs/exotic/lionfish. MISSION STATEMENT
e-Parliament - Legislators from around the world meet in Tobago
Environment TOBAGO natural and living
resources and advances
Meeting to discuss energy priorities in the era of climate change a ground- the knowledge and
breaking global meeting took place in Tobago. Legislators from African and Pacific na- understanding of such
tions joined their Caribbean colleagues to discuss how to provide energy for the poor resources, their wise
while also combating climate change. Legislators from Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and sustainable use and
Tanzania, Solomon Islands, their essential
Kiribati and Samoa joined colleagues from Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, relationship to human
Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and Barbados to hear presentations about renewable health and the quality of
energy and extending the electricity grid to outlying districts. life
They were addressed by John Agard, professor of marine and environmental
sciences at the University of the West Indies, who was a lead author for the
Small Islands chapter of the recently released Fourth Assessment Report of the Inter-
Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He told the legislators how climate
change and the resulting sea-level rise could have a profound and dangerous impact in
Africa and on the small island states of the Caribbean and Pacific, where many islands
are at risk of total submersion. “Our countries are not major polluters but no-one
should underestimate the dangers that we face,” he said. “Climate change could result
in major sea-level rise – much greater than the IPCC projections. There are already
clear signs that we will face more extreme weather conditions, rising prices and diffi-
culties in producing food.”
The parliamentarians who participated in this high-level global hearing heard
how large amounts of power can be generated using existing renewable technologies:
solar, wind, tidal and hydro as well as biomass and geothermal. Nowhere in the world
are these being exploited to their full potential. “Undoubtedly we do not make suffi-
cient use of renewable sources of power in the Caribbean,” said Dr Indra Haraksingh,
Physicist at University of the West Indies and President of Caribbean Solar Energy So-
ciety. “We live in a region which is famous for its sunshine and for its cooling breezes
and yet we use fossil fuels to power our homes and our industry. This is beginning to
look dangerously out of date especially in the context of the extreme vulnerability of
Page 4 Environment TOBAGO newsletter
the small island developing states.”
Dr Haraksingh has recently been looking into the potential for using geothermal
power and last week visited a plant in Nevis which is being developed to provide elec-
tricity for the island. “Geothermal has great potential on Nevis,” she said, “It could gen-
erate as much as 900 megawatts.
“The initial plan is to sell power to St Kitts but then to run high voltage direct current
cables to export electricity to St Maarten and the US Virgin Islands.”
The hearing in Tobago did not just focus on generating electricity. There was also dedi-
cated time to working out how parliaments can provide incentives to promote the tran-
sition to renewables and how parliaments can learn from each other by sharing good
practice on energy-efficiency as well as energy generation.
One energy saving measure that will receive attention is the initiative by the
Ghanaian parliament to distribute free fluorescent lightbulbs. The government spent $12
million on these lightbulbs, saving so much electricity that it avoided building a new
power station – which would have cost $300 million.
The Tobago hearing was the third in a series of nine international hearings
which saw legislators from Africa, Caribbean and Pacific island countries engage in a
comprehensive study of what they can do to address climate change. At a hearing in
Kenya in June, legislators expressed particular interest in generating electricity from geo-
thermal sources – having found out that the Rift Valley has the capacity to generate as
much as 9 gigawatts of power. In West Africa in September, the MPs heard how the
combination of solar and wind energy was sufficient to satisfy the needs of the whole
region provided the West African nations were linked by a “supergrid” of high voltage
direct current cables (HVDC).
The hearings are being organised by the e-Parliament which endeavours to
spread good policy ideas around the world – particularly to address climate change.
“Solutions to the climate and energy crises are urgently needed, and there is no need
and no time for different parliaments to reinvent the wheel,” said Jesper Grolin, execu-
tive director of the e-Parliament. Sharing best practice policy solutions is in itself a step
“ To many people t hes e t all pe aks mak e for a challe ngi ng but sce nic hike. B ut t hey are not j ust anot her t all mount ai n to clim b. ”
forward. ”There is no shortage of technologies that solve the climate and energy crises,
it is all a matter of political will. This is why international parliamentary hearings are es-
sential for us to take decisive steps to control climate change.”
My trip to Suriname
Klaaskreek is a village on the bank of the Suriname River. It is a one to one and
a half hours drive from Paramaribo, Suriname’s capital city. If you do not mind the
bumpy ride, it is a place of overwhelming natural beauty, enhanced even more by the
warmth of its inhabitants.
Klaaskreek is one of thirty villages founded after the transmigration of the six-
The mode of trans-
ties. The inhabitants originate from Ganzee, a village which is now at the bottom of the
port on the Suriname
Bronkopondo Lake. The Bronkopondo Lake in Suriname is a water reservoir created to
River provide energy to a bauxite plant.
The Stichting Toerisme Ontwikkeling Klaaskreek (STOK) or Foundation for
Tourism Development Klaaskreek was founded in 2007. The aim of the foundation is
to develop a tourist friendly beach and the surrounding area, to conserve and promote
Volume 2 Issue 4 Page 5
the Saramaccan culture. The foundation also aims
to improve the socioeconomic condition of the
Visitors to Bena Beach can expect to to-
tally immerse themselves in the Saramaccan cul-
ture- participate in the making of cassava bread in
an outdoor fireplace, sit undisturbed in a ham-
mock in a hut on the river bank or taste the deli-
cious soup made from plantains and drink the fra-
grant juice of ginger root. The Suriname river is
The locals’ welcome in song irresistible in the humid atmosphere. For the
more adventurous a tour down the river to see A young girl takes part in the
special ceremony which cele-
neighboring villages can be arranged.
STOK demonstrates a sustainable tourism initiative which is underpinned by an brates her womanhood.
even deeper respect for their natural environment and culture. Tourism of this sort is
exemplary and should be encouraged through-
out the region to reduce the negative impacts
associated with mass tourism. The concepts of
limits, equity, and futurity should always be at
the forefront of tourism development and not
only economic prosperity.
An elderly woman making
Special ceremony to celebrate a young girl’s
womanhood—procession “ the presence of FP may be an indication, an "early
warning system", that our seas are polluted and that
environmental changes are affecting the ability of wild
animals to resist infectious diseases”
Watch out for those Fire Ants!
Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal
Dept of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies
Fire ants (Solenopsis sp.) give a painful sting which gives the sensation of being
burned by fire, hence the common name. Fire ants are also called red ants. You can tell
them apart from other species by their copper colour, while workers can be black or red
and can be 2 to 6 mm in length. But all sizes can be found in a single nest.
These ants prefer to nest usually in moist soil along river banks, pond edges and
lawns. One does not usually notice their nests as they are usually under objects like rocks,
logs or pavers. But in open areas they build mounds up to 40 cm high. Hence, you are
most likely to encounter them in your garden or while hiking.
You usually get stung when you inadvertently stand on their nest and they start to
swarm all over you. When you move then they attack. When one bites they secrete a
pheromone signalling to the others to do the same. The result is many painful and irritat-
ing bumps which form white pustules which can get infected and can heal to form scars.
So how to avoid all this? First be very careful when hiking and gardening, do not
only look that the trees and animals around but down on the trail as well. If you are stung,
antihistamines or topical corticosteroids can help with the itching. However, if you have a
serious allergic reaction you should consult a doctor.
Page 6 Environment TOBAGO newsletter
Scientists from Smithsonian and UWI collaborate for biodiversity survey
of Tobago spiders
In September a team of scientists from the Smithsonian Institution in Wash-
ington, D.C. and the University of the West Indies, led by Mr. Dave Hardy con-
ducted a three-week biodiversity survey of the spider fauna of Tobago and Little
Tobago. A wide variety of habitats were sampled both natural and those that are
influenced or created by human activities.
Other members of the team include Dana Deroche, Jo-Anne Sewlal, and Dr.
Christopher Starr. Mr Hardy has worked relentlessly at documenting the flora and
fauna of Tobago for the past 40 years. Although he has participated in the collection
of a wide variety of organisms from the island, Hardy’s area of expertise includes,
fishes, reptiles and amphibians and he and his research teams have found many new
species during his numerous visits. DeRoche works as a museum technician at the
Research team (L-R): Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. in the department of Entomology and has
Dave Hardy, Dana accompanied expeditions to Thailand and French Guiana.
Deroche, Jo-Anne From the University of the West Indies, is Dr. Christopher Starr, a senior
Sewlal & Christopher lecturer with over 30 years experience in entomology. Also from UWI is Jo-Anne
Sewlal, a PhD student in arachnology and in addition to her research in Trinidad and
Tobago, her current research has resulted in the sampling and documentation of the
spider fauna of other islands in eastern Caribbean; St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Anguilla,
Grenada and St. Vincent. Both UWI scientists comprise the editorial team for the
Environment TOBAGO newsletter.
Conference - “Science, Media and Society: Towards more effective
The two-day regional conference - “Science, Media and Society: Towards more
effective communication” – hosted by NIHERST–UTT, in collaboration with SciDev.net
and the OAS in Latin America and the CCST was held on 24 and 25th November, 2008
at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. It was attended by Jo-Anne Sewlal
and Christopher K. Starr both of the editorial team of the ET newsletter, and from the
University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. Other participants included journalists
both local, which included those from newspapers, radio and television and foreign
from such countries as Mexico and Brazil, as well as scientists, science communicators
and educators, both local and regional.
Keynote addresses were given by Brian Trench, a distinguished international
science communications expert based at Dublin City University, and Dr. Luisa Mas-
sarani, the Latin American and the Caribbean coordinator of SciDev.Net, which is a
website based in London. This NGO is dedicated to providing reliable information on
science and technology in the developing world.
Mrs. Maureen Man- A series of practical group exercises and lectures spanning the two days, al-
chouck NIHERST, intro-
ducing a panel discussion
lowed participants to explore practical ways of improving communication between dis-
at the conference. ciplines in science and technology and the media. Panel discussions were also included
where issues on science, media and society were debated. Studies on the inclusion of
science in a variety of newspapers in both Latin America and Latin Caribbean were also
analysed and it was proposed that a similar study be conducted in this country.
It was hoped that future conferences on this topic would strengthen the ties
and develop a better understanding between science, technology and the media.
Volume 2 Issue 4 Page 7
Book Review: DEEP DOWN IN THE JUNGLE
Review of William Beebe's Guyana books: 1918. Jungle Peace. New York: Henry Holt 297 pp.
1921. Edge of the Jungle. Garden City, NY: Garden City 303 pp.
1925. Jungle Days. New York: G.P. Putnam 201 pp.
[Thirteenth in a series on "naturalist-in" books.]
Christopher K. Starr
Dept of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies
C. William Beebe (1877-1962), at one time the most famous American natural-
ist, is the subject of two full-length biographies (Gould 2004, Welker 1975). He is well
known here as the founder of the Simla research station in the Arima Valley of Trinidad.
For about 60 years Beebe worked at the New York Zoological Society (NYZS),
which not only managed the Bronx Zoo but had a substantial research programme. He
was a strong believer that tropical biology was best pursued through varied, long-term
studies at permanent, well-equipped stations. In 1916 the NYZS established a Tropical
Research Station on the Mazuruni River of Guyana, between where the Cuyuni empties
into the Mazuruni and where the Mazuruni joins the mighty Essequibo. This was, then,
very much in a land of rivers. By this I mean real rivers, the kind that can float boats,
with big islands in them, not the tinkling little brooks that witty Trinibagonians call rivers.
Furthermore, it was only about 65 km from the sea, so that tides were an important
The station was in time devalued by degradation of the surrounding area, but for
a decade it was probably the single most productive site for tropical research. These
three books are a selection of Beebe's writings from this period. Most chapters first
appeared as popular articles in the Atlantic Monthly magazine. With few exceptions, they
are reports from the field, not reminiscences from back in New York. Together with
the books of Bancroft (1769), Rodway (1894) and Hingston (1932) and a multi-author
strange things in
collection of studies (Beebe et al. 1917), they are part of a rich literature on Guyana's
very beautiful ways
natural history. A fourth book of similar title and thrust (Beebe 1949) is set at Rancho
were on my mind
Grande in Venezuela, a successor to the Guyana station.
when I sat down,
Beebe went to the tropics at a time when they had a reputation as dangerous,
but by the time my
pestilential places. He vigorously refuted this nonsense and counterposed his own view
pen was uncapped
of the rain forest as not only filled with wonders but relatively benign. The title of the
my thoughts had
first book, Jungle Peace, reflects this view. At the same time he took a thoroughly unsen-
shifted to rocks. ”
timental view of predation and parasitism as key parts of the natural order. And a chap-
ter in Jungle Days on "The Life of Death", for example, treats the plants and animals
found in the crown of a newly-fallen giant tree and the succession of organisms on it as it
Beebe is not always careful with his identifications. In Edge of the Jungle, for ex-
ample, we find a flabbergasting passage, some pages long, about a wayside weed being
mauled by leaf-mining caterpillars, which in turn are attacked by a parasitic wasp, with no
attempt to identify any of them. This, I fear, is little better than travel literature. Still, he
more than makes up for such lapses with his hard-core approach to nature -- when he
wanted to know what it was like to be bitten by a vampire bat, he did what any real
naturalist would do and slept with a foot exposed -- and original viewpoints. He does
not take things for granted, as seen, for example, in his characterization of sleep as "one
of the romances of existence, and not by any chance the simple necessity that it is re-
puted to be."
Page 8 Environment TOBAGO newsletter
Each chapter has a well-defined theme. An especially striking feature is the way
Beebe opens many chapters with an image that puzzles and grabs. The puzzlement has
to do with the subject of the chapter, which Beebe is prepared to reveal to us, but not
just yet. Beebe sets a leisurely pace and often takes a while to come to the point. To
me, this is part of the charm, like a column by Wayne Brown that gives no forwarding
address until he is good and ready.
"Butterflies doing strange things in very beautiful ways were on my mind when I
sat down, but by the time my pen was uncapped my thoughts had shifted to
rocks." [Okay. Now, is this going to be about butterflies, rocks or something else?
"A most admirable servant of mine once risked his life to reach a magnificent
Bornean orchid, and tried to poison me an hour later when he thought I was going to
take the plant away from him. This does not necessarily mean that we should look with
suspicion upon all gardeners and lovers of flowers."
"There is a great gulf between pancakes and truffles: an eternal, fixed abysmal
cañon. It is like the chasm between beds and hammocks." [It is only three pages later
that we learn that the chapter is about just that, hammocks, i.e. about the value of
sleeping outdoors amid the nightly sounds and rhythms.]
A powerful sense of strangeness pervades these books. Let me illustrate this
with three quotations:
"If an Indian had appeared down the trail, hopping endlessly and gripping the
trunks, gazing upward with staring eyes, I should not have thought it more strange than
the next thing that really happened."
"Like a rainbow before breakfast, a sloth is a surprise, an unexpected fellow
breather of the air of our planet. No one could prophesy a sloth."
"Where a moment before was an unbroken translucent surface, were now thir-
teen strange beings who had appeared from the depths, and were mumbling oxygen
with trembling lips."
Ernest Hemingway must surely have learned some of his pacing and punch from
Bancroft, E. 1769. An Essay on the Natural History of Guiana. London: T. Beckert & P.A.
de Hondt 402 pp.
Beebe, W. 1949. High Jungle. New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce 379 pp.
Beebe, W., G.I. Hartley & P.G. Howes 1917. Tropical Wild Life in British Guiana. New
York: New York Zoological Soc. 504 pp.
Gould, C.G. 2004. The Remarkable Life of William Beebe. Washington: Shearwater 358
Hingston, R.W.G. 1932. A Naturalist in the Guiana Forest. London: Edward Arnold 384
Rodway, J. 1894. In the Guiana Forest. London: T. Fisher Unwin 242 pp.
Welker, R.H. 1975. Natural Man: The Life of William Beebe. Bloomington: Indiana Univ.
Volume 2 Issue 4 Page 9
WHAT’S HAPPENING @ ET
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Office: 11 Cuyler Street Dear ET Newsletter Readers,
Tobago, W.I. We want to hear from YOU!
Comments may be edited for length and clarity.
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