About Us

Mission Statement

"Conservation, Education and Preservation of Nariva and its environs through the provision of resources, technical services and capacity building in collaboration with local communities.”

 

The protection and rehabilitation of the endangered West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) or sea-cow as it is locally known, in the Nariva Swamp started out as a project of the Rotary Club of San Juan under the "Protect Planet Earth" programme of 1990 - 1991 launched by Rotary International. Over the years the members of the Club and other concerned environmentalists undertook various activities such as the establishment of a research station on site at Manzanilla, monitoring of the manatee population and public awareness. These activities were targeted as there was a paucity of information about the manatee population and there were reports of the manatee still being hunted for its meat. The impetus generated by this programme culminated in the formation and registration of The Manatee Conservation Trust (Trust), with the full endorsement of the government agency responsible for management of this species, that is, the Wildlife Section of the Forestry Division. Foundation members included the immediate Past President - Gupte Lutchmedial, President – Lisa Ramkissoon-Maharaj and the then Head of the Wildlife Section – Nadra Nathai-Gyan.

The Trust is a non-profit organization based at Nariva, Manzanilla with the majority of its membership (approximating 75%) being drawn from the local communities. Representatives of other environmental interest groups and government agencies comprise the remaining membership. In order to better carry out its mandate, the Trust in 1997 acquired the estate of the Huggins Trust Limited, which had been under its ownership for approximately 100 years. This estate comprises some 500 acres situated along the periphery of the Nariva Swamp and stretching well over 12 kilometres along the Manzanilla/Cocal stretch. By taking this action, the Trust ensured that the remaining manatee population came under strict protection as these animals live in the tributaries and waters that pass through the Estate. Prior to the acquisition of the Estate, the activities were undertaken with the permission of the Huggins Trust Limited which also provided some resources for the project.

The Trust operates in a self-sufficient manner using the revenue earned from the estate’s agricultural production to finance the conservation activities. It has not moved too far away from the original character of the estate, which was the cultivation of short crops and coconuts, and the farming of cattle and buffalypso. Today, the Trust cultivates watermelon as its main crop along with other short crops and has done away with the farming of animals.

Although the flagship project started out as the protection and rehabilitation of the West Indian Manatee and its habitat, it has grown to encompass the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of the flora and fauna of Nariva Swamp and the adjacent environmentally sensitive areas. Indeed, the Trust is nationally acclaimed for its pivotal role in saving 14 of the 25 short-finned pilot whales which stranded on the Manzanilla Beach in 1999. The Trust is a Humming Bird Silver Medal recipient.
 

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