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Nov 8, 2017

Caye Caulker Man Wrong to Keep, Display Wild Raccoon Family

It is not surprising for residents in rural areas of the country to be found in possession of certain wildlife species.  As a matter of fact, in some southern communities one would often come across an encaged parrot or a coati being kept as a pet.  So when a resident of Caye Caulker was hauled before the court on Tuesday for unlawfully keeping a family of young raccoons, the resulting charge probably took him by surprise.  Jacob Emmanuel Cabral appeared before Magistrate Janelle Villanueva on November seventh where he was arraigned for unlawful possession of forest produce.  That’s because he was busted at his place of business in mid-August with three, five-week-old raccoons that he was purportedly using for wildlife tourism.  That practice is against the law and Cabral has been taught an expensive lesson when he was fined two thousand dollars.  Not only do the animals pose a health risk, they are also extremely high maintenance and very aggressive.  Earlier this evening, News Five spoke with Forest Officer Minerva Gonzalez who explained the unusual nature of the criminal offence.


On the Phone: Minerva Gonzalez, Forest Officer

“We received the report, we immediately responded and we found that Mr. Jacob Cabral had in his possession three raccoons and they were apparently about five-weeks-old.  Reportedly, he was using them for wildlife tourism.  He would allow tourists to take pictures with them and this was done in the public’s eye.  We charged him under unlawful possession of forest produce because forest produce includes not only trees, but wild animals, dead animals and et cetera.  There are many products that we take out of the forest and those are considered forest produce, of which wild animals are forest produce.  Wild animals, the public has to understand and we must spread awareness on this topic that wild animals are not adorable pets.  Wild animals are wild.  They are known to carry many diseases that can be passed on to humans and specifically raccoons can pass on rabies and tuberculosis to children and adults and even pets.”


Isani Cayetano

“Is this an usual occurrence to the Forest Department?  I know it’s unusual for us in the media, but is it something that you guys come across often or is it something that stands out as a rarity?”


On the Phone: Minerva Gonzalez

“It has become a pattern and we realize that we need to work hand in hand with the B.T.B. and to the different public entities to increase awareness and to educate the people on how to prevent or use wildlife as tourism or for business.”


Isani Cayetano

“Would the same then apply for someone who decides to keep dangerous snakes, for instance, for show to tourists who would come visiting their establishments or what have you?”


On the Phone: Minerva Gonzalez

“There are only a few companies that have specific expertise to manage wildlife and those are the ones who require special licenses to do this.  Wildlife management, I reiterate, requires special expertise and permits and those are the ones that are allowed to have these animals with special licenses.”


Cabral must pay the fine by March thirtieth, 2018 or face up to six months imprisonment.  The five-week-old raccoons were transported to the Belize Wildlife Referral Clinic for rehabilitation.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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