Daily Gleaner, June 26, 1960


by Lisa Salmon

So, it truly looks as though the battered toy has been thrown on to a shelf to be taken off again this coming (and horribly near) August 12, to be played with once more, and, perhaps, so completely broken, that not all the King's horses, nor all the King's men will be able to bring back our birds again!

May the shades of Humpty Dumpty forgive me! But, that is how I see our birds (both game and others) as a badly battered toy that is taken out each shooting season, hauled-and-pulled about by gunmen, catapulters, etc, until it gets more and more mutilated. Must it not, therefore, stand to reason that one year the toy will become so badly broken that any measures to mend it may come too late.

Would yon believe it if I told you that it is the oldest Sportsmen, the Colonel Blimps of the shotgun, who cling so tenaciously to the broken toy? Especially those who love to ruminate upon the good-old-crocus-bag days when they shot and shot and shot without thought to the future!

One can't help pausing to wonder just what they did with so many dead birds, and just how they managed to keep and eat so many birds in those days of no refrigerators!

Would you believe it if I told you that it is these Colonel Blimp Sportsmen, who have more than enjoyed their share of many, many years of unrestricted bird-killing, who are the ones most reluctant to give the birds a sporting chance to recuperate from the heavy drain that has been put on their fast diminishing numbers over the past ten years?

Bird preservation

Do you know that several young sportsmen are so anxious to see some action taken whereby the birds may be allowed to rest from shooting, that they have actually asked me - "DO YOU KNOW WHAT GOVERNMENT IS DOING ABOUT THE BIRDS?"

And, what can I tell these sportsmen? Only this, that I do not know what Government is doing.

So, I am now asking Government that same question. JUST WHAT DOES GOVERNMENT INTEND TO DO ABOUT THE PRESERVATION OF OUR BIRDS? Do they intend to take any action before this coming August 12?

Have the Wild Life Protection Committee not put forward recommendations? If they have, just what is causing the delay to the passing of measures that will give our birds their long-earned break?

There are many who would like to see legislation passed that will allow those of us who wish to do so to be allowed to create private sanctuaries. Can Government be persuaded to pass the necessary legislation to enable such private sanctuaries to be created? Especially in view of the fact that we have no National Wild Life preserves? For even Castleton Gardens and Hope Gardens, which should be natural havens for our wild life, are invaded by boys with catapults.

And on the subject of catapults. Did you know that although we have more than enough materials lying eround out of which catapults may be made, the importation into Jamaica of foreign ready-made catapults has been allowed? In September of last year ready-made catapults of foreign manufacture were being offered for sale in the market at Grange Hill in Westmoreland at about the same time that they were being sold in Montego Bay.

Lethal weapons

WHAT conclusion can one come to? That instead of trying to save our birds by legislation, yet more lethal weapons are being permitted to come into Jamaica to be used against them. It has been said that a licence is needed for catapult! Is this correct? Can anyone put me straight on the correctness of this assumption? And, if there is such a law, which is it, and why is it not enforced?

As to the opening day of the Shooting Season, I will always maintain that this should be changed to the FIRST OF NOVEMBER, more so in view of the tales told me by some young sportsmen of how sickened they were to see the numbers of laying and young birds killed these last two seasons.

Why do not some far-sighted sportsmen go into the possibilities of a factory for the manufacture of clay pigeons with the object of re-starting up the sport of clay pigeon shooting?

One sportsman has confessed [to needing] something to shoot because he loves the feel of a gun in his hands. I don't for a minute suppose that he is singular in his gun love, so that whilst the making of clay pigeons locally would constitute yet another new manufacture (which could certainly give employment to perhaps, some of the bird-boys for whom some sportsmen seem to feel deep concern) Clay pigeon Shooting would most definitely give the gunmen release for their trigger hungry fingers.

Trap shooting in hotel areas where there is absolutely no amusement for guests other than sea-bathing, would certainly be welcomed as an entertainment, not only for tourists, but also £or local persons in areas far from horse-racing tracks, and most of all, would divert the energies of sportsmen from live to inanimate targets.

Feeding grounds

ONE DOES get tired of hearing the same old reason being given for the decrease of game birds - that their feeding grounds are disappearing. In truth this is but a fraction of the problem. Take, for instance, a certain property whose 9,000 acres range through Hanover into St James. Out of these 9,000 acres, 1,800 acres comprises of watershed and forest reserve, and consists of bird feeding trees, such as, Fiddlewood, etc. which are only felled as and when the necessity arises for fence costs and other property requirements.

Only five selected sportsmen were permitted to roam these 9.000 acres, yet on August 12, 1959, only two birds were shot. Two weeks later there were no birds at all to be seen.

Can this absence of game bird life be said to be caused through lack of feeding trees? I think not for this property, although thickly forested with feeding trees, has shown a marked decrease of these birds over the past five years, to the point where shooting has now automatically shut down.

It has been claimed that there were "millions of Baldpates" in Trelawny this past season, yet on April 2 last bird-watchers of the Florida Audubon Society on a tour into the Cockpit were rewarded by the sight of 'so-so' eight Baldpates for the day in Trelawny. The completed tour of over a week, which covered Montego Bay region, Cockpit Country, North Coast via Fern Gully to Kingston, Blue Mountain, Port Henderson, Ferry River, Hermitage, Hope Gardens, Port Royal and Mona, yielded the following count of pigeons and doves seen: - Baldpate - 21; Ringtail Pigeon - 1; Pea Dove - 54; Whitewing - 6; White Belly - 2; Partridge - 2; Mountain Witch -1; Ground Dove - 197


One cannot help but wonder just where did the birds vanish? Regretfully I can supply the information as to what is happening to the Ground Doves. They are being served to customers at a certain Chinese Restaurant in the Corporate Area - stuffed and roasted. And they are supposed by law to be "Protected Birds"!

Over-catching through lack of Government protection caused the extermination of the world-famous Cayman Green Turtle, which, fortunately can be, and has been re-established at great cost from Central American waters.

Unhappily, the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon, exterminated through the agency of man, have gone beyond replacement by man. The Mutton Bird of Australia is suffering heavy casualities because its helpless young yield a lucrative fat. Its cousin, the Cahow of Bermuda. was thought to have been hunted out of existence, but in recent years a slender remnant has been discovered on one island.

Time, rats and man will tell if they will be able to survive. The Whooping Crane population of Canada and the United States, struggling back from the brink of extinction, can be counted to consist of 39 birds. These are now rigidly protected by sanctuaries that preserve both their breeding grounds in Canada and their winter migratory quarters along the Gulf Coast of the U.S.

Do we indeed wish to see our birds reach the low ebb where extinction might well be their lot?When the fight for their survival will entail tremendous effort and sums?

Or are we to follow the suggestion of one sportsman (?) - kill them all off and then we won't have to bother about them anymore.