Environment TO BAGO new slett er
Volume 3 Issue 2 June 2009
n vi r on m e n t TO-
BAGO (ET) is a non-
government, non-profit, vol-
unteer organisation , not BELLE GARDEN ASSESSMENT UPDATE
subsidized by any one group,
corporation or government
Founded in 1995, ET is a
proactive, advocacy group At the beginning of November 2008 Mrs. Patricia Turpin, President of Environ-
that campaigns against nega-
tive environmental activities ment Tobago, officially launched the project at a function that included the participants,
throughout Tobago. We representatives of Environment Tobago, the management team and Mrs. and Mr. Mc
achieve this through a variety
of community an environ-
Kenna, the former Secretary of Agriculture, Marine Affairs and the Environment and
mental outreach programmes. the local press.
Since that day eight community members are par-
Environment TOBAGO is
funded mainly through grants ticipating in weekly training sessions that provide
and membership fees. These them with the necessary background information on
funds go back into implement- the importance of wetlands, their ecology and biodi-
ing our projects. We are
grateful to all our sponsors versity and with all necessary skills to provide eco
over the years and thank tours to local and international tourists.
them for their continued
The training was supposed to be much more than
the regular tour guiding training, therefore the
course outline was established and administered in
Official launch of the project collaboration with Mr. Sylvester Clauzel, CEO of
the Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute (here
W hat’s inside lecturing at the centre), and Aljoscha Wothke, lecturer at the Trinidad and Tobago
Hospitality and Tourism Institute for Environmental Issues, Mr. David Rooks, a re-
nowned naturalist and Mr. Kevin Trotman as assistant lecturer.
Belle Garden Assess- 1
ment Update This constellation brought together unprecedented expertise of senior lectur-
ers and our course evaluation shows that the trainees were very satisfied with the
Annual Career Day 3 quality of presentations ranking them on average with 9 out of 10 points.
OAS 5th Summit of the 4 Each Sunday was dedicated to a different topic covering the following issues:
meeting • Introduction to wetlands, their importance, our relationship to wetlands in To-
Destruction near 5 bago
Kilgwyn Wetland • Basics of tour guiding, dress code, general behavior
• Wetland flora, general wetland ecology.
What is a Fuel Cell? 6 • Trends in Tourism – past and present
Book Review 8 • Introduction to the tourism industry and its structure
• Eco Tourguiding: what makes it different
What’s Happening @ 9
• Value adding using wetland based products
contributors • Historical & cultural background of the community and folk tales, beach ecology
• Wetland flora, medicinal herbs / cultural usage
• The blue crab in its natural environment
• Tobago’s wetland birds, wetland specific reptiles and mammals
• Conceptualizing a product: from concept to context
Page 2 Environment TOBAGO newsletter
• Designing a product concept
• Tour packaging: Itinerary development
• Costing & Pricing a tour
• Standards in tours operations
• Planning a tour using skills and tools learnt
• Introduction to the flora and fauna of Tobago
• Butterflies and other spectacular wetland invertebrates
Editor: • Turtle watching
Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal • Tour Guide responsibilities and caring for the
Design & Layout:
Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal The year 2009 started with further training activi-
Technical Support: ties: Prof. Jacob Opadei, Head of the Department
Nolan Craigwell, of Surveying and Land Information, UWI, and his
Jerome Ramsoondar team were engaged to introduce the trainees to the
Enid Nobbee application of GIS for wetland management and
Contributors: practical training in GPS data gathering. The manage-
Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal ment team and Ms. Hema Singh, Project Officer,
Christopher Starr Maurice Wylie explaining the use of a
Environment Tobago were then trained to analyse
Environment handheld GPS unit to a trainee
the GPS data and create Arc View maps of the
Photographs: wetland. The offer of Maurice Wylie, a UWI student, to conduct his Master’s thesis
Environment on the surveying of the Belle Garden Wetland was very welcome by the entire team
TOBAGO and will provide further valuable information for the management of the area.
Environment Tobago also was able to es-
tablish collaboration with two students from the
Board of Directors
University of Leeuwarden, Netherlands, to assist
with biodiversity assessments and the develop-
President:: ment of a co – management plan for the Belle
Patricia Turpin Garden Wetland. Most of the flora and fauna pho-
Vice-President: tographs in this report were taken by one of the
Secretary: students, Mrs. Tina Eastman de Jonge
Kay Seetal February 2009 started with World Wet-
Treasurer: land Day, and Environment Tobago held its annual
Shirley Mc Kenna programme at the Belle Garden Wetland and
Committee members: The results of our cleanup!
Community Centre. This included speeches from
William Trim several organisations, one was given by a member
Fitzherbert Phillips of the student body of the Belle Garden Wetland Conservation Project who informed
Geoffrey Lewis the audience of how the project has benefited him and the community thus far.
Bertrand Bhikkary Other activities on this occasion were a two - morning beach cleanup, involv-
ing trainees and community members; approximately one ton of garbage was col-
David Antoine lected and all participants agreed that clean ups would have to be a continuous effort
Andy Roberts in combination with awareness programmes at schools due to the fact that the pollu-
tion was observed to be coming both from the sea and from area up river from the
One afternoon was dedicated to tree planting at the wetland involving train-
ees and students from the schools in the area, such plant species were selected that
would attract butterflies and hummingbirds and as well provide food for other wild-
On the second day our newly trained Eco Tourguides volunteered to give
Volume 3 Issue 2 Page 3
free tours to local and international tourist.
T his proved to be quite an encouragement to them as they got to see in action
all that they have been learning and enjoyed the praise given to them by the tourists
for an excellent tour. Comments such as, “I’m over 100% after this tour”, was given
by one of the guests of the touring party.
On the last day of the World Wetland activities, Mr. Brian Bain, elected rep-
resentative of the Belle Garden Eco Tourguides made an announcement which should
be valued as an important milestone toward the success of the project and the imple-
mentation of a future co-management plan. On his own account he held a meeting
with the hunters of the area achieving an agreement to stop hunting at the Belle Gar-
den Wetland for a period of five years in order to allow the animal population to re-
generate, after the five year period all hunting activities would be carried out in a sus-
Environment Tobago, which will conduct school wetland awareness pro-
grammes starting in March 2009, has already agreed to hire our Belle Garden Eco MISSION STATEMENT
Tourguides for a two months period, providing the trainees with their first tour guid-
ing related income after months of training. nvironment
Water testing was conducted at three sites along the Belle Garden River; de- TOBAGO
spite the high pollution with garbage, the chemical parameters for phosphates and conserves Tobago’s
nitrates are well within limits, also the absence of chlorine is a good sign, the high pH natural and living
at the site close to the school needs some further investigation. A second water test- resources and advances
ing is planned for March and will include bacteriological tests. the knowledge and
understanding of such
Tot. Phos- Nitrates Tot. Chlo- resources, their wise
20.02.2009 pH Tot. Phos-
phates [mg/l] Nitrates Tot. [mg/l] TDS[mg/l]
[mg/l] rine Chlo- and sustainable use and
20.02.2009 pH phates [mg/l] [mg/l] rine [mg/l] TDS[mg/l] their essential
School 10.4 1.6 nil nil 2050 relationship to human
Mid River 10.4
2 nil 2050
17860 health and the quality of
Mid River 8.2 nil 2 nil 17860 life
River mouth 8.01 nil 1 nil 3340
River mouth 8.01 nil 1 nil 3340
Currently, at the end of February 2009, the project management team is de-
veloping Belle Garden Eco Tourguiding advertising plaques, which will be, with the
kind assistance of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, distributed at hotels
and other high frequency locations throughout Tobago.
March will start with the development of our Belle Garden Eco Tour website
and the erection of awareness signs at the entrance of and within the wetland.
From the 3rd of March 2009, Ms. Hollie Manuel, a GIS resource post graduate envi-
ronmentalist with experience in Kenya and Australia, will dedicate five further days to
refresh and upgrade the management team’s knowledge on GIS usage and assist with
the creation of the wetland maps.
This pilot project shall serve as a role model for the mapping and monitoring
of the remaining Tobago wetlands and as well as used to identify strengths and miti-
gate weaknesses of the pilot project.
Page 4 Environment TOBAGO newsletter
Environment Tobago and Signal Hill Secondary Comprehensive School
Annual Career Day - April 24th 2009
In an effort to assist students to explore options before they hit the working
world, the principal and staff of the Signal Hill Secondary Comprehensive School hosted
their Annual Career Day on April 24th at the school’s compound. Environment Tobago
was invited to set up a small booth and interact with the students.
ET was very happy to attend this affair as we hoped not only to impart valuable
knowledge about Environment Tobago but also to invite some of the students to visit
our Education Centre, become volunteers and encourage them to care for their envi-
The students learned about non-government organizations, how they are struc-
tured, their unique place in society, the roles that they play and gaps which they fill.
They also learned about possible job opportunities in this field and was given a Case
Study to serve as an example of the type of functions which one would likely be ex-
pected to do in an NGO such as ET.
It was encouraging for us to see the general interest in the environment espe-
cially the formation of a small environmental club. ET will continue to work with the
group and provide assistance where necessary.
OAS- 5th Summit of the Americas
Civil Society- NGO’s and CBO’s Preparatory Meeting for
The Summit of the Americas to be held in April, 2009
October 30th & 31st,Crown Plaza, Trinidad.
The Theme of the pre-summit meeting was “Sustainable Development, Gender
affairs, Energy and the Environment”. Civil Society delegates from, North, Central, and
South America and the Caribbean- NGO’s and CBO’s, representing all of the areas
“ 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. ”
mentioned above, and hosted by the OAS came together to discuss the charter of Port-
of-Spain to be presented in April to the heads of governments who would be gathering
in Trinidad for the 5th Summit of the Americas.
During the two-day meeting, each section of the charter was discussed thor-
oughly. Stakeholders/ representatives of the various sectors made changes, additions
and corrections to the document. The Sustainable Development and Environment sec-
tor was represented by Environment Tobago, Caribbean Forest Conservation Associa-
tion, CANARI and EPAS Consultants/Eden Shand.
Changes and additions:
• Introduction of the Earth Charter as a civil society voice in the document.
• A call for the Monitoring and Implementation of multilateral environmental agree-
ments that have been signed onto by our governments, e.g. Climate change and Ramsar
• A call for coordination between the various country ministries that overlap in devel-
opment and the Environment.
• A call for the development of alternative renewable energies.
• A call for a determined effort at solid waste disposal- recycling.
Recognising that health and sanitation issues are closely linked to solid waste disposal.
The issues of gender affairs, poverty reduction and crime were also discussed
and various measures added to the document. The final Document to be submitted to
the heads of government has been completed.
Volume 3 Issue 2 Page 5
Destruction of Area Bordering the Kilgwyn Wetland, Tobago
The following pictures were taken on the 19th of April 2009.
The activities started on the morning of the 18th of April 2009 over the summit
Mrs. Neila Bobb Prescot (Director of the Department of Natural Resources and the
Environment, THA) and the Environmental Authority, Trinidad were contacted to no
Pic 1. Escavator hired by Warner construc- Pic 2. Cleared area adjacent ( within 15 m) to
tions clearing 7 acres directly adjacent to the
“ 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”
Pic. 4. Cleared area at the entrance of Kilgwyn Pic. 5. Boundary post (stick with red ribbon) at
Wetland. Site is beign cleared for the develop- the boundary of Kilgwyn Wetland but clearly
ment of 30 residential homes within the mangrove ecosystem
Page 6 Environment TOBAGO newsletter
What is a Fuel Cell?
Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal
Dept of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies
A fuel cell operates on the same principal as a battery but they will not run
down or need recharging once there is a supply of fuel. They are favoured in this age
of environmental awareness because it generates electricity but emits water as a
waste product. Many renewable energy technologies were discovered millennia or
centuries ago and fuel cells are no exception being discovered in 1838 by Christian
The basic physical structure of a fuel cell consists of an electrolyte between
two electrodes, an anode which caries a negative charge and a cathode which has a
positive charge. The hydrogen atoms enter the anode and are split into protons and
electrons which have a positive and negative charge respectively. Both particles pass
thorough the catalyst where the protons combine with the oxygen to produce water
as exhaust while the electrons create an electric current. There are many different
types of fuel cells where the difference is in the type of electrolyte used.
Fuel cells can be used for a variety of purposes, such as a power source for
vehicles, laptops and other electronic devices. It can also be used as an auxiliary
power source for residential and commercial building or in rural communities as an
off-grid power source.
Unfortunately in Trinidad and Tobago this technology like solar energy is
mostly utilized to power water heaters, but has recently been installed as an alterna-
tive power source by our telecommunications service for their cellular site in Trini-
dad. However, our use of this power source is not being exploited to its full potential.
ON DESOLATION ROW
Review of: George Gaylord Simpson 1934. Attending Marvels: A Patagonian Journal.
New York: Macmillan 295 pp.
[Fifteenth in a series on "naturalist-in" books.]
Christopher K. Starr
Dept of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies
"But the real characters of this country are immutable: wind, cold, drought, pebbles
where soil should be and thorn bushes for grass. These cannot change within a mille-
nium, and as long as they remain, Patagonia will be its savage self and its people will be
set apart from all others."
George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984) worked at the American Museum of Natural
History in New York and later at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. He was
perhaps the most prominent paleontologist of his time and one of the architects of the
Modern Synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s, the scientific movement that gave rise to evo-
lutionary biology as we know it today. His main research was in the early part Cenozoic
Era, which began about 65 million years ago and continues today. During most of this
time, North America, Eurasia and Africa were connected, off and on, while South Amer-
ica remained isolated. Simpson's treatment of the separate evolution of the south-
american mammal fauna, before the closing of the Panama land-bridge three million years
ago (Simpson 1980), is recommended for the non-specialist, as is his autobiography
Earlier in this series, we have treated the Gran Chaco and the Pampa of South
America. Now we go further south to Patagonia, a wild, inhospitable, sparsely-populated
region extending from approximately 42ES to 52ES. Unlike some other cold, demanding
regions, such as the Tibet or the central Andes, Patagonia was never the seat of a highly-
developed civilization. Accordingly, tourism is almost entirely ecotourism. In northern
Patagonia, I found a well-organized, government-regulated ecotourism sector that prom-
ises good conservation of the environmental base.
Cold, dry, almost treeless regions like Mongolia and Patagonia are excellent places
to look for macro-fossils. The mineralized bones of long-dead land vertebrates can re-
main undisturbed and relatively exposed for eons. Charles Darwin spent about two
years of his five-year voyage around the world in Argentina (Darwin 1989), including sub- “Cold, dry, almost
stantial travels in Patagonia, where he made some notable fossil discoveries. treeless regions like
Simpson first arrived in Argentina in 1930, just in time for coup d'état that over- Mongolia and Pata-
threw Hipólito Yrigoyen, then returned in 1933 and 1935, for a total stay of more than a gonia are excellent
year. This is the naturalist-in account of that time and place. He worked the area around places to look for
the small town (now a city) of Comodoro Rivadavia in Chubut province. (Let me men- macro-fossils. The
tion in passing that an inordinate number of places in Argentina seem to be named after mineralized bones
military figures, which cannot be socially healthy. One can understand that every town of long-dead land
has a square and street named for José de San Martín, but it is unsettling forever to be vertebrates can re-
bumping into the ghosts of Manuel Belgrano, Guillermo Brown, Julio A. Roca, Cornelio main undisturbed
Saavedra and other slayers of many. But I digress.) and relatively ex-
There is much here about the hard work and uncertainty of paleontological field posed for eons. “
work. Like any prospecting, the hunt for vertebrate fossils has a very large element of
chance. One makes great effort to choose a likely site, and then one can work a cliff face
for days or even weeks, finding nothing of significance, until suddenly one day something
fantastic appears. The work in Patagonia led to a fabulous haul of new fossils, but it re-
quired a great deal of perseverance, intelligence and good luck.
Inhospitable as it is, Patagonia is by no means lifeless, and Simpson has a keen eye for
living creatures. He mentions many of the characteristic mammals and birds, with more
extensive accounts of the guanaco (Lama guanicoe, one of four New World camels), pichi
(Zaedyus pichiy, a small armadillo), patagonian tinamou (Tinamotis ingoufi) and Darwin's
rhea (Rhea pennata, one of two New World ostriches).
All in all, Simpson's attitude toward Patagonia is wonderfully ambivalent. Before go-
ing to sleep, we find him thinking "Life here is not a pleasure in the ordinary sense of the
word -- but it has its compensations -- yes, on the whole I am happy to be here -- I do
like it in spite of everything."
In spite of everything. We are left in no doubt as to the nature of "everything". It is
not the cold, the almost constant hard winds or the daily hard labour. It is the people,
whom Simpson sees as living under some sort of curse. Like any frontier area, Patagonia
at that time was a refuge for failures and misfits. People arrived there with dreams of
striking it rich and, when disillusioned, the vigorous ones quickly went back home and the
rest remained. Predictably, the latter formed a society that was dysfunctional in large
part, "the sort of place in which you are always looking over your sholder to see whether
the crime has occurred yet." In the guest book of a country "hotel" he charitably wrote
that "This is the most cheerless, God-forsaken, barn-like, clammy dump it has ever been
Page 8 Environment TOBAGO newsletter
my misfortune to find myself in." That's kicking them when they're down.
In these pages we meet many disreputable and unlikeable local characters, both
those who considered themselves natives and the expatriates trying every measure to
keep their children from going native. Both groups are mostly treated with humour.
The only time Simpson shows real venom is in treating the community of immigants
from South Africa. He regards the Afrikaners as degraded and miserable, losing their
humanity generation by generation.
Patagonia was (and is) not a region of high culture. Many of the locals were certain
that Simpson and his assistant were prospecting for gold or something else of tangible
“We are left in no value. It was surely a preposterous lie that they had come from another continent just
doubt as to the na- to hunt for old bones out in the wilds. Besides, even if they really were after fossils, why
ture of "everything". would two educated men go to all that labour and roughing it, rather than just sit back in
It is not the cold, the distant Buenos Aires and let their flunkies do the hard stuff? To those still clinging des-
almost constant hard perately to shreds of gentility, the Americans were a shocking enigma.
winds or the daily To end my account of this most engaging book, here is a long quotation to illustrate
hard labour. It is the the sort of grand insight that Simpson derived from many months of digging in Patagonia:
people, whom Simp- "There are three sorts of changes in their animal life that distinguish these succes-
son sees as living sive deposits and permit their recognition. Some of the animals in the older beds lived
under some sort of on, but the time is so great that they evolved into new species, and the descendants in
curse. “ the younger strata are unlike their ancestors in the older. Some of the ancient animals
became extinct and left no descendants. And some of the younger animals have no an-
cestors buried in the older beds, but were immigrants whose ancestors had lived in
some other part of South America. In these three ways, life was constantly changing, as
it is still today."
Darwin, C. 1989. Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the Various
Countries Visited by H.M.S. Beagle. London: Penguin 432 pp. Available in numerous other
editions, some titled The Voyage of the Beagle.
Simpson, G.G. 1978. Concessions to the Improbable. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press 304
WHAT’S HAPPENING @ ET
Environment TOBAGO Environmental
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Volume 3 Issue 2 Page 9
WHAT’S HAPPENING @ ET
With a membership of 394 worldwide, Owen Washington
ET welcomes the following members: Chauvain Joseph
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Page 10 Environment TOBAGO newsletter
Office: 11 Cuyle 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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