Caye Caulker resident, Jacob Emmanuel Cabral was fined $2,000 when he appeared before Magistrate Jannelle Villanueva yesterday in San Pedro Town for “Unlawful Possession of Forest Produce”. Cabral was ordered to pay the fine by March 30th, 2018 or face imprisonment of up to six months.
A report issued by the Forest Department indicates that on August 15th 2017, police officers visited Cabral’s business place in Caye Caulker, where he was found in possession of three racoons. Cabral claimed that the racoons were awarded to him as a gift and was reportedly using the animals for wildlife tourism. The five-week-old racoons were transported to the Belize Wildlife Referral Clinic for rehabilitation with the hope that they will eventually be returned to the wild.
Residents are advised that while raccoons may look adorable, they are wild animals and should not be treated as pets. Forestry Department advises that even when “tamed” racoons are extremely high maintenance, unpredictable, destructive, and are notorious biters. Most importantly, racoons pose a major health risk to people and other pets.
In the report issued by the department, Forest Department Officer, Minerva Gonzalez, is quoted as stating “Racoons are known carriers of zoonotic parasites and infectious diseases, including rabies. 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 also 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.