A shark sanctuary for Tobago

According to the recent study of the Global Status of Reef Sharks, Tobago supports a higher than average number of shark species. Dr Anjani Ganase asks us to take note and institute measures to protect and conserve this diversity.

A recent study on the global status of reef sharks has finally been published and confirms that reef sharks have a long history of heavy over exploitation. The study surveyed coral reefs from 58 countries around the world, including 18 in the Caribbean region. These surveys show that about 20 % of the reefs surveyed were devoid of reef shark species; these included the Dominican Republic and Colombia. Areas with lower shark numbers were more commonly associated with greater fishing pressures because of high local human population densities, as well as poor governance and management of shark fishing. 
The study also revealed which factors contributed to areas with an above average number of reef sharks. These factors include regulation on the restricted use o…

The Plight of the Picoplat

No longer is the song of the Picoplat heard in the wild anywhere in Tobago or Trinidad. Fetching high prices for their singing, they have been trapped to ‘local extinction in the wild.’ Birder photographer Faraaz Abdool asks us to appreciate and protect all the birds of Tobago. This week he looks at the wide-ranging family of tanagers; and asks us to take personal responsibility for their well-being. The family of tanagers consists of some species that are extremely familiar to most of us. It is quite a large family, comprising approximately 240 species of mostly brightly coloured birds that are emblematic of the jungles of the New World. Some of the most widespread species of birds belong to this family – although many species do not carry the common name of “tanager.” Confusingly, there are other “tanagers” that do not belong to this family. That however, is the subject of another conversation altogether.
This family Thraupidae consists of the true tanagers, honeycreepers, conebills,…

Deep Sea Mining

As companies move to find valuable resources in more hazardous territory – oil, gas, minerals – Dr Anjani Ganase asks us to pause and reflect on what mining the deep ocean means. As humans seek to exploit our most remote and unknown environments, we need to be mindful of the present threats brought about by decades of ecological damage from continuous production and consumption.
Why? As long as we continue to build and advance our technology industry, there will always be a need to mine the elements used in our electronics. The iPhone, and most smart phones, on average are made up of over 75 elements and many have to been mined, including gold for electrical circuits, lithium for batteries, rare earth metals used to make up part of the screen and features in the phone. However, it is not just phones, most modern electronics, battery systems and alternative energy systems, are built using these earth elements.
Over the last fifty years as our technology has advanced, this has come with a…

Managing Buccoo Marine Park

The Buccoo Reef Marine Park was reopened on Monday July 7, 2020 with new regulations. Dr Anjani Ganase talks with marine scientistShivonne Peters,  Policy Advisor to the Chief Secretary  of the Tobago House of Assembly. about the rules and their enforcement in a renewed attempt to manage human activities and their effects on the life and sustainability of the Buccoo ecosystem and its creatures.

The Covid 19 pandemic taught us that caring for ourselves – our lives, our economy and our future - goes hand in hand with caring for nature. We also learned that if we leave nature alone, it has the potential to heal itself. As humans were kept away from all public and natural spaces, as industries were working on minimal capacity, as our consumption of plastic and food wastage lowered, and the use of cars was reduced, our environments (land and sea) became cleaner, quieter and more inhabitable by creatures. Even in Trinidad and Tobago, as humans stayed away, our beaches, waterways and marine …

How animals learn and socialise

Far from being “dumb”, animals do communicate and learn from each other. Dr Anjani Ganase discusses how animals socialize, innovate and learn new behaviors across groups of the species. Intelligence is not a peculiarly human trait and we can learn from other species.

In the animal kingdom where parents care for their offspring, they teach them the fundamental lessons for life and the skills to survive. Bird parents teach their young how to fly, orcas, tigers and other predators teach their young to hunt and even monkeys teach their kids how to floss their teeth (with human hair). However, there comes a point where our learning capacity grows beyond genetics and parental care, and this occurs through social learning from peers within a cultural setting.
Similar to that of humans, the cultures within the animal kingdom depend on socially learned behavior to benefit groups of individuals with shared advantages within a species population. By observing, consulting and even mimicking strate…

Re-opening Tobago's tourism

With their biggest market right on the doorstep, Tobago properties are encouraged to re-open to Trinidad as if we are the world. Tobago might yet teach Trinidad some things about business that brings communities together and works to keep traditional values intact. All photos courtesy Anjani Ganase
To revitalise the tourism sector for Tobago, in the post-Covid 19 world is not rocket science. The people of our two islands already possess the intelligence, skill and adaptability to develop and maintain such a service industry. Awareness of country assets is something that can be learned; as well as an understanding of what draws visitors to our country. In Trinidad, we know about Carnival and Pan. In Tobago, we have beaches and pristine landscapes.
Certainly one of the most compelling attractions in both islands, is the ease and grace with which our multi-culturalism presents itself. It’s in the festivals – not only Carnival and Divali and Baptist Liberation, in the celebrations of small …

Strange Sea creatures

Adaptations of creatures into monsters of dreams and mythology (and inspiration for films) can     teach us lessons, and provide new gifts or treasures. Dr Anjani Ganase asks us to look at some strange ocean creatures.
Living in the ocean requires a different set of skills from living on the land. On land most of us, with the exception of those with wings, are limited to moving around the earth’s surface. Most terrestrial animals spend their lifetimes crossing the terrain for food, water, shelter and mates. The ocean, however, has other properties: water allows organisms to move in all planes and connects animal and plant life at much greater and more intimate scales where water is also a medium of transport.
While the ocean is a 3D realm, it doesn’t make the ocean homogenous as there are natural physical barriers that limit movement and transport of marine life and material. For example, the pressure exerted on our bodies increases with depth, owing to the weight of water above, and l…