The biodiversity of Tobago is disappearing. While there is a general consensus between farmers, the public and Government that the most dramatic crash in fauna was directly related to the spraying/ fogging for mosquitoes, Government action is handicapped by a lack of quantitative/qualitative data to document the decline and demonstrate potential solutions.
The Wright’s experience in other countries (e.g. Ireland) has demonstrated that dramatic species loss can go unobserved until people are reminded of what used to be —a prime example would be the global crash in moth or bee populations. People are shocked to be reminded of the number of moths that used to be attracted to their kitchen light.
Roy Corbin has farmed and hunted all his life and knows his farm intimately, he stopped hunting when he became aware of the species decline, deciding the situation was so dire that he should breed and release the indigenous animals to start to address the problem. He observed that as the Hope Farm initiative declined and the bush reclaimed the paddocks many of the seed eating birds disappeared and there was a dramatic decline in butterfly species. He was also concerned about the scale of loss of mammals and reptiles through hunting – exacerbated by the number of feral dogs.
Corbin Local Wildlife Park
A securely fenced 5-acre wildlife park that includes animal enclosures designed to both exhibit local animals and serve as breeding units. Successful offspring are being released in to the secure 5-acre park. The wildlife park is proving to be an important visitor attraction and education resource for schools. Visitors, both local and international tourists, and students, come not only to view the animals but to experience the wealth of biodiversity along the nature trails throughout the surrounding forests.
Roy Corbin has extensive farming knowledge and Ian and Lynn Wrights have experience and expertise in land management and creating species rich habitats.
A portion of Roy’s land adjoins an area of Hope farm that has been under-planted with timber trees and an area of State land that has not been cleared for at least 20 years where a diverse range of mature trees are established, it is hoped that these areas can be preserved from hunting and from grazing domestic animals to both create a safe biodiverse area to facilitate the successful release of animals and help illustrate the increase in biodiversity when domestic grazing animals are restricted.
Roy and Ian have a policy not to take animals from the wild, all the animals in the enclosures were donated to the project – some damaged, and many that had been inappropriately housed.
The breed and release strategy involves captive breeding of specific species which are either endangered or have completely disappeared in Tobago but still exist in Trinidad. This will culminate in a planned program of release under carefully controlled conditions, in specific protected regions. The program will be carried out under the advice and planning of relevant local experts and the released animals will be monitored through tracking devices to determine the survival rate and whether they can establish themselves effectively and reproduce.
Corbin Local Farm Food
An 18-acre farm producing local meat (goat, sheep and fowl) and eggs in Mason Hall, Tobago. Principles of organic farming and sustainable land management are being applied.
There are low inputs, which reduce the environmental impact of farming. Animals are being pasture-raised and supplemented with local fruit and corn grown on the farm and there is no spraying of chemicals. It is intended that coconuts and corn will be grown together to enrich the soil and add to the biodiversity of the land.
The areas for domestic animal husbandry illustrate sustainable land management techniques, including the introduction of an electric fence around the perimeter, allowing the pastures to be grazed in rotation – minimizing the time involved feeding and “rounding up” the animals while allowing a more diverse habitat to develop in the pastures established throughout the farm.
Areas of bush that were being periodically cleared with excavators are now being managed with selective felling; encouraging grasses to flourish, retaining potential timber trees to provide for an income in the future, while providing shelter and shade for grazing animals.
The existing areas of paddock will be managed with light manual work and rotational grazing allowing species rich grasslands to develop supporting a rich biodiversity. The whole farm will soon be a model for sustainable farming and will welcome visitors for demonstration and educational purposes.
Education and income generation
The base funding for the Project has been from private sources and donors, Since late 2017, fee paying guided tours of the animal enclosures, have provided a supplementary and increasingly important source of income.
The guided tours within the wildlife park allow the visitors the rare opportunity to experience Tobago’s wildlife close up while receiving important information about the essential roles the animals play in the fragile biodiverse ecosystem we all need to survive in.
Guided tours commenced in 2015 and have increased in number over time. Since November 2017 the number of visitors has increased significantly, in 2018 around 1,500 people were guided through the animal enclosures. These numbers had trebled before lockdown.
Additional income must still be generated in order to maintain the current infrastructure and to allow for the construction of additional enclosures and the collection of species to be expanded.
We are actively seeking external funding that will allow us to commence captive breeding on a larger scale for selected species, initially but not exclusively:
Tatoo / Nine-banded Armadillo. Ground living and insectivorous
This species has been chosen because: 1) it has been heavily hunted and is close to extinction in Tobago, 2) It is important as the only termite eating mammal in Tobago. The main difficulty lies in the development of an effective captive breeding environment.
We are seeking experts to help us design a project for both the captive breeding and the release into the wild. To address several critical questions relating to release: 1 pre-release population of the species, 2. Effect of local vegetation on population density, 3. Hunting activity 4. Survival rate of animals monitored with tracking devices.
In addition to its online presence, Corbin local is listed in the tourist office as one of the top attractions of Tobago, and is highly recommended by Trip Advisor .
There have been many media articles and there are an increasing number of online videos including television coverage at Corbin Local Wildlife. Our brochures are also available in every hotel and in the tourist office, as well as in schools.
Donations to Corbin Wildlife Park can be made via Paypal to Margaret Corbin MACORBIN3@gmail.com
Alternatively bank transfers can be made to:
Name: Corbin Local Wildlife Park
Account number 020846577701.
Bank name and address:
Scotiabank Lowlands Mall
Irish Natural Forestry Foundation,
Allied Irish Bank, Skibbereen, Co Cork.
Account no: 01711-078; Sort Code: 93-63-75.
Iban IE86 AIBK 9363 7501 7110 78
Lodgements marked INFF(Tobago)