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Oct 31, 2008

Police & Forest Dept. seize truckload of illegal game meat

Story PictureIt’s no secret that Belizeans love game meat and that Asians have a taste for crocodiles, particularly the tail. Today the Police and the Forest Department had on display a truck full of both, which were confiscated from two businesses in the Scotland Halfmoon area. News Five was on hand this morning at the Queen Street Police Station for full details of the raid.

Marion Ali, Reporting
One would hardly begin to appreciate that this truckload of game meat are the carcasses of deer, gibnut, armadillo, peccary, and even the protected crocodile, that found themselves trapped by flood waters in the Belize River Valley as they tried to reach higher ground.

But higher grounds were where they met their fate as unlicensed hunters in the area saw an opportunity to make money. Personnel from the Police and Forest Departments organised an early-morning operation and closed in on not the hunters, but those who had made a business out of the mass slaughters. The successful operation came after countless calls the Forest Department has received from concerned residents.

George Hansen, Wildlife/Enforcement Prog. Officer, Forest Dept.
“Over the past week or so we’ve been getting a lot of complaints from, not only from the locals, but also some of the information channeled through the Belize Audubon Society, they relay that information to us. We get a lot of calls from the local farmers and villagers that there are a lot of people coming outside the village and some from inside the village and taking advantage of the flooding situation where the majority of the animals have to go on high grounds. Some of the high grounds are islands and what they do, they target these islands and in a sense wiping out the entire population of wildlife that is on there. The maximum penalty is a thousand dollars for each charge and also that depends on what you do. you have to go through the regulations to see how many charges could be levied against them and if they fail I think it’s gonna be six months in jail for each. And if the magistrate so ups, it could be fine and confine. So if they are first offenders and what the case here is that both the individuals are actually naturalized Belizean. One is of Asian descent and other one I think is an American.”

The operation had to be well-planned and so the Forest Department, headed by Wildlife and Enforcement Programme Officer, George Hansen, sought the help of the Police Department’s Special Patrol Unit, commanded by Assistant Superintendent Ralph Moody.

A.S.P. Ralph Moody, O.C., Special Patrol Unit
“We came out about three o’clock this morning where we set up check points and we also conducted searches in the Belize River Valley, to be specific, Bermudian Landing area. Where we conducted search on two business establishment, one at a gas station and the other at a Chinese business place. We found a large amount of game meat ranging from gibnut, peccary, deer meet and armadillo and at the Chinese business place we found a small amount of crocodile meat.”

And while the Asian businessman was believed to have the crocodile meat for personal use, Moody says there was evidence that the sale of game meat had been an old practice.

A.S.P. Ralph Moody
“On the wall inside of the shop there’s a price list on the wall giving the different meat and the different price for them, so they are doing business. And they also have a meat cutter that they use to cut the meat with.”

Marion Ali
“I see you are measuring one with a pen, it’s very small.”

A.S.P. Ralph Moody
“That is a very small gibnut. That is maybe about a couple months old, very, very small. it’s a shame to see that we are killing out our animals like that.”

George Hansen
“Because of the urgency of it we start the operations from early this morning and will continue to do it along the major highways and also some at night as well to deter these kinds of activity. As you can see, a lot of the animals are small. You can imagine how many got shot and died running away that we don’t know about. We’re looking at it from several points of view. One is that the majority of the hunting is illegal and also the dealing is illegal because to sell wild game meat you have to have a dealer’s license. They didn’t have a dealer’s license. The dealer also has to buy from a person who has a dealer’s license that also hunts and sells because he’s also dealing. So both of them have to have a dealer’s license. In this case, the individual could not tell us where they got the meat from and therefore, we assume then that they themselves hunted the meat.”

And if were wondering what will happen to the two hundred pounds of meat, Hansen says he will ask the court’s permission to distribute it to the children’s home. Marion Ali for News Five.

The two accused, Yung Guang He and James Beachy, were arrested and charged for several counts of illegal hunting, but because they were brought to the Magistrate’s Court too late, they were sent back to the police station until Monday.

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