The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has renewed an appeal to citizens to immediately stop hunting and capturing the Jamaican coney, which is an endangered species.
The call comes as at least one Portland man was recently arrested and charged after he was caught with conies in a makeshift cage.
“The picture attached looks normal right? It shows men coming from the farm, maybe. Sadly that was not the case as these men were hunting conies. They were caught carrying a cage containing two conies on April 29, 2020, in Sherwood Forest, Portland by National Park Rangers,” NEPA tweeted on Wednesday, June 10.
According to NEPA, the conies were not harmed during their capture and were released back into the forested area of Nonsuch, a nearby rural community.
NEPA noted that hunting of the conies is common as persons from the area normally use dogs to hunt them. Elaborate traps are also used to capture the animals.
“The public is being reminded that it is an offense to possess and hunt endangered species. Persons found doing this will be charged under the Wildlife Protection Act. They could be fined up to $100,000 and or spend 12 months in prison,” the government agency warned.
The Jamaican coney, also known as the Jamaican Hutia, is a distant relative of the guinea pig and can be found nowhere else in the world. Apart from bats, the coney is the only surviving native land mammal in the country.
An estimate of their surviving population is not widely known as the conies’ numbers have dwindled greatly over Jamaica’s history, however, the animals can be found in the eastern parts of the island—specifically Portland, St Thomas, Red Hills in St Andrew, and the Hellshire Hills in St Catherine to an extent.