Persons, who smuggle exotic plants and wildlife into the island are being implored to desist from this illicit activity for the health and safety of Jamaicans.
Smuggling plants and wildlife can introduce dangerous diseases and invasive species to the country’s ecosystem, threatening the island’s biodiversity and posing a health risk.
Speaking in a recent interview with JIS News, Chief Veterinarian, Veterinary Services Division (VSD), Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Osbil Watson, said that “there are Jamaicans, who make the mistake of smuggling some of these creatures, like exotic birds, and we want to reach out to them to say, stop it”.
“Let us keep Jamaica free of deadly diseases that are going to affect us, our children and loved ones. Think about the ills; for a lot of these diseases there is no cure, for example, rabies… [Also] people don’t smuggle only animals, people smuggle plants, which is also dangerous. This is because you bring diseases of plants into the country and destroy our agriculture,” he pointed out.
Although there is a vaccine against rabies, it is usually available for high-risk persons, such as veterinarians who work in countries where rabies is present. Jamaica does not have rabies.
“If you’re not vaccinated against rabies, and you get rabies, you are going to die because rabies is almost always fatal. Therefore, smuggling dogs, monkeys and other exotic animals is a deadly and dangerous practice,” Dr. Watson stressed.
He is urging Jamaicans to report incidents of persons smuggling exotic animals and plants into the country. He said that the VSD has been successful in intercepting some of these attempts.
“We have to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper, to ensure that if we see these activities taking place, to immediately shout out. Call someone from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture or someone from the National Environment and Planning Agency. Say to them, ‘look, I saw some people take off some strange looking creatures last night off a boat or something’. It is all about safeguarding our beautiful country and the health of our people,” he said.
“We have to safeguard our biodiversity. In some countries, for example, monkeys are literally a pain. They eat down every banana plant, destroy your food crop and if they multiply in the right amount, they can become a menace. Just think about the possibility of not only diseases, but how the flora and fauna can be affected by way of smuggling. I think we all need to get really serious, because we see what is happening globally,” he added.