World Wildlife Day- Environmental Conservationists in T&T a Brief History

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World Wildlife day was proclaimed during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 and is celebrated every year on the 3rd of March. The day is intended to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild flora and fauna. The theme chosen this year is “The future of wildlife is in our hands”. Though the United Nations’ main focus is on African and Asian elephants, they have encouraged countries to highlight their various species of flora and fauna. Here in Trinidad and Tobago there are numerous Environmental Conservationists groups that practice this theme in their everyday operations. Some of these groups include Papa Bois Conservation Trinidad and Tobago, Turtle Village Trust, Manatee Conservation Trust and Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club.

Taking their name from the Papa Bois folklore, the Papa Bois Conservation was founded in 2012. Though based in Trinidad and Tobago, their mission is environmental advocacy, education and the defence of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. Believing that nearly all environmental problems in the Caribbean are regional problems, they state that Caribbean countries are short on resources but long on environmental challenges. As such, representatives from all Caribbean countries are welcomed in this group. Some of the environmental projects identified and undertaken by the Papa Bois Conservation include a Lionfish education and eradication project, a turtle protection project and UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for Trinidad and Tobago’s turtle nesting beaches.

Formed in 2006 to increase ecotourism in Trinidad and Tobago, the Turtle Village Trust was initially a collaboration between five (5) community groups (Nature Seekers, Fishing Pond Turtle Conservation Group, Grande Riviere Nature Tour Guide Association SOS Tobago and the M2M Network) and BHP Billiton Trinidad and Tobago. Coming together to tackle challenges in the conservation of sea turtles such as access to funding and standardizing and nationalizing conservation protocols, these community groups approached BHP Billiton Trinidad and Tobago to support their endeavours. It was through this that the Turtle Village Trust was born. Sea turtles that were once abundant in tropical and sub-tropical waters are now declining drastically due to loss of habitat and commercial exploitation. The Turtle Village Trust is committed to fostering partnerships between community groups, corporate entities and government in a bid to establish Trinidad and Tobago as the premiere turtle watching destination.

“Conservation, Education and Preservation of Nariva and its environs through the provision of resources, technical services and capacity building in collaboration with local communities” is the mission statement of Manatee Conservation Trust. This group got its start as a project of the Rotary Club of San Juan under the “Protect Planet Earth” programme of 1990-1991 launched by Rotary International. For the Manatee Conservation Trust, focus was on the manatee population and public awareness but as time progressed it grew to incorporate the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of the flora and fauna of Nariva Swamp and the adjacent environmentally sensitive areas. This group has been the recipient of the Humming Bird Silver Medal and played a crucial role in saving 14 short-finned pilot whales that were stranded in 1999 on the Manzanilla Beach.

The Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club (one of the oldest existing clubs in Trinidad and Tobago) is a non-profit organization that aims to bring together people that are interested in the study of natural history, the circulation of that knowledge and the conservation of nature and natural resources. Geared towards promoting the environment their mission is to “Foster education and knowledge on natural history and to encourage and promote activities that would lead to the appreciation, preservation and conservation of our natural heritage.” A very interactive group, the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club publishes a quarterly bulletin to report on their ongoing activities as well as articles on various environmental topics.

Though these groups have specific focuses they all invite any change from the legislative level that would help their cause. Of particular interest is the Forest Act which was created to manage and protect forests in the country. Throughout the years, this act has been amended numerous times with the most recent amendment taking place in 2013 as protecting the country’s natural environment has become increasingly important in the face of several factors destroying and degrading the natural ecosystems.

Housed at the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago are several documents that can be used to research the environment in Trinidad and Tobago. These documents include Reference books, Rare books, copies of the Field Naturalists’ Journals and the Living World Journals, Ordinances and Council Papers.


Work Cited

“Wildlife, Fauna, Flora, Endangered Species, Biological Diversity, Environment, Ecology, Sustainable Development, CITES,.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 29th February, 2016.

“Papa Bois Conservation – Trinidad & Tobago | Share. Be Aware. Care. Your Environment Needs You.” Papa Bois Conservation Trinidad Tobago. N.p., n.d. Web. 29th February, 2016.

“Turtle Village Trust – Trinidad & Tobago.” Turtle Village Trust – Trinidad & Tobago. N.p., n.d. Web. 29th February, 2016.

“Manatee Conservation Trust.” Manatee Conservation Trust. N.p., n.d. Web. 29th February, 2016.

“ABOUT THE CLUB – The Trinidad & Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club.” The Trinidad Tobago Field Naturalists Club. N.p., n.d. Web. 29th February, 2016.





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Today’s blog post was written by Jo-Anne S. Ferreira, a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine and a member of SIL International (Americas Area).  Her academic interests are (socio)phonetics, contact linguistics, the history of Portuguese language and culture in the Caribbean, South American French Creole varieties, and Bible Translation.

In 1999, UNESCO proclaimed that International Mother Language Day (IMLD) would be celebrated on 21 February; the day was chosen to remember two students who died on 21 February 1952 in defence of Bangla, their mother tongue (spoken in what is now modern Bangladesh). Since 2000, countries around the world have observed IMLD to promote peace and multilingualism.

Quoting from the UNESCO website on IMLD 2016: “The theme of the 2016 International Mother Language Day is “Quality Education, Language(s) of Instruction and Learning Outcomes.” … UNESCO is highlighting the importance of mother and local languages as channels for safeguarding and sharing indigenous cultures and knowledge, which are vast reservoirs of wisdom.”

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, what are we celebrating? What is our national mother tongue, or what are our national mother tongues? Is it English or Trinidadian English Creole or Tobagonian English Creole, or two or all, or none? Are we monolingual, bidialectal/bilingual, trilingual, multilingual?

Our official language is English and our national languages are English, Trinidadian English Creole and Tobagonian English Creole (both English Creoles are widely called Dialect); these 3 are the mother tongues of the majority of our population. Our other heritage languages, now in the minority and largely endangered, are Spanish, Patois/French Creole, Cantonese, Hindustani/Bhojpuri, Portuguese, Yoruba, Arabic and T&T Sign Language (TTSL) (there are others too). Fortunately, there are studies documenting aspects of most of these languages and their cultures, and a great deal of work remains to be done.

Historically multilingual and home to over 10 indigenous languages of the First Peoples in the 1400s, to over 30 languages in the 1800s (spoken, written and possibly signed), Trinidad once used to allow many languages and cultures to co-exist, each one thriving for a time. Two centuries later, we see a handful of languages struggling to survive. Evidence of our historical multilingualism is seen in our surnames and place names; in the National Archives’ historical collections of documents and newspapers with articles and advertisements in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Cantonese and more; and in our cemeteries with tombs with multilingual inscriptions.

The disappearance of so many languages and the ongoing struggle of the surviving ones is the combined result of authoritarian language and language education policies, and negative language attitudes. These policies (especially the Anglicisation Policy) and negative linguistic attitudes militated against the old tradition of many languages. Parents and grandparents, under pressure to sustain their families, were told and once believed that English only was the key to socio-economic success and acceptance. Many reportedly focused on English education to the point of not exposing their children to the languages of the family and community. The result is non-intergenerational linguistic transmission, or our children not learning the vast majority of our languages. As young people are not speaking/using most of these languages anymore, the pool of native speakers/users is ageing. And as elders pass away, communities of speakers/users are shrinking.

Now we know that multilingualism is key to cognitive, neurological, psychological, social, intellectual and personal development. Somehow, even though we know about the benefits of bi- and multilingualism, we still seem to have difficulty with our Creole and Sign and other heritage languages. Some people (still) think they aren’t real languages, and not worthy of being developed, and these languages are always being negatively compared to standardised, official European languages. But a language is a language and the Linguistic Creed tells us more.

Some of our heritage languages are now only personal and family memories, and some are remembered in songs. Most are remembered only in words incorporated into our national lexicon (even some of these words are being forgotten by young people). We can be proud of Winer’s great historical dictionary of our national lexicon of 12,200 words belonging to the English language and to our English Creole languages.

History is key. Knowing the history of modern English helps us to understand where the language came from and how it changed radically over the last 1,500 plus years, and how and why it is changing before our very eyes. Knowing the history of our English Creoles builds respect and shows connections and bridges to the Americas, Europe, Africa, India, China and the Middle East.

Remembering our multilingual past and our multilingual lexicon is one way of honouring our national languages and their speakers/users. Another way is to honour speakers/users of the languages still among us. Many of our elderly native speakers/users of our heritage languages are bilingual from birth (some trilingual). Younger family members can be encouraged to learn the techniques of interviewing, and start recording elderly and other relatives for oral history, family memories, and learn the languages and cultures.

Some say that both our islands and the country on the whole are too small to continue to host a number of languages. There are smaller islands and countries with more languages. The population of Aruba is about that of Diego Martin. Every Aruban speaks a minimum of four languages (Papiamento, Dutch, English and Spanish), and multilingualism there is both natural and appreciated. We can take example. Using our mother tongues in our schools is key to national development; preserving our ancestors’ mother tongues is key to national self-understanding.

Many languages of the world have been inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, including Garifuna, a Caribbean language. Most of our languages continue to be spoken elsewhere, so we can revitalise them a) by depending on our elders to learn our own stories and traditions, and b) by reaching out to neighbouring communities in the region, all the while being careful to document our variety and version of these languages (and not use others as references and yardsticks).

The Caribbean is a richly diverse, multilingual space. Multilingualism is our heritage, and is our key to global citizenship. Language is the uniquely human way of communicating inter-species. Knowing our and other languages is key to developing self-respect and therefore respect for others. We celebrate and respect all languages and peoples.

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