Illegal Wildlife Possession Leads to Arrest and Fines – On November 7, 2017, Jacob Emmanuel Cabral of Caye Caulker was fined $2,000 for “Unlawful Possession of Forest Produce”. San Pedro Town Magistrate Jannelle Villanueva ordered that Cabral pays the fine by March 30th, 2018 or face imprisonment of up to six months.
The Forest Department reported that on August 15, 2017, police officers visited Cabral’s business place on Caye Caulker, where he was found in possession of three raccoons. Cabral claimed that the raccoons were awarded to him as a gift and was reportedly using the raccoons for wildlife tourism. The five-week-old raccoons were transported to the Belize Wildlife Referral Clinic for rehabilitation with the hope that they will eventually be returned to the wild.
Minerva Gonzalez, Forest Department Officer, said that while raccoons may look adorable, they are wild animals and should not be treated as pets. She added that even when “tamed” raccoons are extremely high maintenance, unpredictable, destructive, and are notorious biters. Most importantly, raccoons pose a major health risk to people and other pets.
“They are known carriers of zoonotic parasites and infectious diseases, including rabies,” explained Gonzalez. “Their natural instinct is to bite when they’re angry, frustrated, or stressed.” Consequently, Gonzalez advised that for the sake of human safety and protection, residents should immediately report any possession or illegal captivity of wild animals to the Forest Department.
The Department reminds the public that under the Forest Act, Wildlife Protection Act, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, any person found capturing, exporting, importing, hunting, killing, or molesting any wildlife species will serve imprisonment and/or fines.
The Department welcomes the support and assistance of community residents by reporting any forest or wildlife concerns to the Forest Department at 822-2079 or email at email@example.com.