Conservation & Education News

16 Jul 2012

CANARI Outreach at Asa Wright

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright

Participants of the workshop (photos by Kenneth Fournillier)

The Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) three-day workshop on communication, networking and building partnerships was recently held at our rainforest retreat, Asa Wright Nature Centre. On the first day, workshop leader Ms. Celeste Chariandy, introduced the session by telling us the best ways to “sell” our groups. The community groups present hailed from Aripo, Blanchisseuse and Brasso Seco, three villages in which CANARI is carrying out ongoing work.

We discussed the elements and types of communication and networking. Several entertaining and educational activities were used to help us understand the material being taught. Attempting to get someone standing in a specific corner using only signs, speaking or writing is harder than you think.

On day two we were privileged to listen to Mr. Dennis Sammy, president of Nature Seekers, as he chronicled the group’s development. He provided refreshing insight on leadership and networking. The advice that truly stood out was that to improve one’s group, one must start by improving oneself. This talk was followed by more interactive activities while Asa Wright’s culinary delights provided the energy for us to remain alert.

The final day was one of re-examination of communication methods that have been successful and continue to be challenging for the community groups. Participants used a video presentation, Power Point presentation and a skit to get these messages across. Among the group presenters was Asa Wright’s Mr. Kenneth Fournillier, president of the Blanchisseuse Environmental Art Trust (BEAT). Representatives from organisations such as IICA, UNDP, CDF and the CCIB, who witnessed these presentations, were able to address questions from the community groups.

Many persons left the workshop with a renewed sense of communication and its benefits thanks to CANARI facilitators Ms. Chariandy and Ms. Sandy.


05 Jul 2012

BEAT Develops Sustainable Sea Moss Supply

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright

This mural entitled ‘The Washerwoman’ which was illustrated by Kenneth Fournillier, was done to commemorate the Blanchisseuse Sea Moss Project. It represents the culture of the Blanchisseuse community.


The Blanchisseuse Environmental Art Trust (BEAT) is an organisation closely aligned with the Asa Wright Nature Centre. Our Education and Outreach Officer, Kenneth Fournillier, is also the President of BEAT, and is involved with Community Outreach and Project Development among the Blanchisseuse community. The village sits on the coast at the end of the Arima Blanchisseuse Road, and is one of the better known birding areas for our visitors. The community also supplies us with our fresh fish, and soon might be providing us with Sea Moss.

“Sea Moss” is a popular health and restorative drink in the Caribbean. In Trinidad and Tobago it is made from special seaweed which grows along the underwater and tidal rock faces in the Blanchisseuse area of the North Coast. Sea Moss cultivation and marketing at the community and small entrepreneurial level provides a living for many persons who harvest and dry the seaweed before selling it to small shopkeepers who blend it with milk to sell as “Sea Moss Punch”. The particular moss for this drink is Gelidicius serrulatum which only grows on a stretch of coast between Las Cuevas and Toco. As demand created over-harvesting of the moss along this stretch of coast, BEAT, along with others, approached CANARI (Caribbean Natural Resources Institute) for help in developing a more sustainable “crop” of the moss. Working along with the Institute of Marine Affairs and others, BEAT began recording and assessing data on harvesting times and techniques in order to develop a more sustainable and constantly available “crop” of Sea Moss.

The BEAT group with members of the UNDP smile at the launching ceremony of the mural.

One of the important findings was that Sea Moss cut at its base grew back faster than sea moss pulled by its roots from the rock surfaces. Other practices were developed to enhance the regrowth of the moss, and the word was spread to other coastal communities, so that they could benefit from the knowledge gained. Sea Moss production is expected to increase through the North Coast, and parlours and restaurants expect a continuing supply to make and market the popular Sea Moss Punch islandwide.


Making Sea Moss Punch


  • 1 lb dried Sea Moss
  • 2 limes
  • 250 ml packet evaporated milk
  • 1 tin condensed milk
  • 2 tsp. Angostura Bitters
  • 1 stick cinnamon bark
  • Water and sugar to consistency and taste


Clean the dried moss, then soak in lime juice for 12 hours (to remove the “fresh” taste), wash and boil with the cinnamon until the mixture becomes gelatinous. Remove the cinnamon and blend and strain. When cool, add the evaporated and the condensed milk, blend again with bitters, and add sugar to taste. Leave to cool and serve with ice.

17 May 2012

Dr. Gobin in Major Environmental Policy Change

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright


Shortly after the Government announced a freeze on NQL’s expansion and the proposed re-planting of trees, AWNC was invited by the Minister of Housing and the Environment, Dr. Roodal Moonilal, to attend a private “round table” discussion on quarrying and the environment. This was followed by a public signing of a document restoring quarry controls to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

Both events were held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Monday 19th March. The round table discussion was hosted by Dr. Moonilal and Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine. Other participants included the EMA, Council of Presidents’ of the Environment (COPE), Trini Eco Warriors, Forestry Division, and quarrying interests, as well as Dr. Judith Gobin for AWNC.

Each group was given a hearing by the Ministers, and most spoke of the need to have better controls on quarrying, and he need to minimise quarrying of the Northern Range. While the quarrying interests supported their activities, Dr. Gobin was firm in her statements about the potential damage done to our environment by quarrying activities and urged stronger controls.

The “round table” then moved into another room at the Hyatt to meet the media and to witness the formal signing of the document to restore quarrying controls to the EMA. Dr. Gobin spoke at this event, and expressed the deepest gratitude of the AWNC and environmentalists for the recent decisions of the Government, and the overwhelming support received on this issue.

The AWNC anticipates urgent implementation of these landmark decisions by government to stem the unacceptable rate of degradation witnessed around the country from quarrying.

17 May 2012

The Challenge To Save The Hills

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright


Guardians of Mother Earth – AWNC CEO Veronica Simon-Wallace, Chairman Dr. Judith Gobin, Former Chairman Dr. Carol James (in front of mural painted by AWNC’s Community Outreach Officer Kenneth Fournillier). Photo by Kenneth Fournillier.


All the friends of the Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC) are aware of the quarrying activities down the valley at Verdant Vale. The four limestone quarries there create massive scars in the forested hillsides. We continue to lobby for better operating procedures and controls on the quarries, in order to minimise their impact on the environment. In one small way we were spared having to gaze into the sores from our verandah. There is a ridge and a line of trees which kept most of the operations hidden from our view.
But that changed early in March. All of a sudden, National Quarries Company Limited (NQL), the Government-owned quarry, sent equipment over the ridge, and began bulldozing a large swathe of hillside, in full view of our verandah. We could even hear the sound of the tractors!
Chairman Dr. Judith Gobin immediately sent a letter to the Minister of Planning and Development, Dr. Bhoe Tewarie, asking who, if anyone, had given NQL permission to expand their operations over the ridge. Others immediately wrote the media, and sent copies to relevant government ministers. All of these letters were posted on Facebook, and a massive outcry was raised against the expanded quarrying.
The reaction from the Government was immediate, and surprising, but warmly welcomed. The Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs, Senator Kevin Ramnarine called immediately to ask if he could visit on Friday 9th March to see the problem. Chairman Gobin and former Chair Dr. Carol James both came up to Spring Hill to meet the Minister and his entourage, which included officials of NQL. The Senator observed the situation from the verandah, and listened to the concerns of Asa Wright. He also heard the arguments from NQL for the expansion. Other government ministers, including Housing and the Environment
Minister Dr. Roodal Moonilal, Works and Infrastructure Minister Jack Warner, and Dr Bhoe Tewarie also expressed their support for Asa Wright’s position.
AWNC held a media conference in the verandah on Monday 12th March. Members of the media saw the destruction of the forest on the mountainside, and learned of the threats to biodiversity, future water supplies and the possibility of guests not wanting to visit in the future.
The media carried the story and our concerns through the week which followed.
On Tuesday 13th March, Dr. Gobin was a guest on CNC3 TV’s Morning programme, where she outlined AWNC’s concerns to the nation. Later that day the Government announced that NQL had been instructed to cease the expansion, return to their original area, and to begin a re-planting exercise to replace the trees felled. But more than this. They announced that the “control” of quarrying nationwide would revert to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), from where it had been moved some four years earlier.
This meant that the overview of all quarrying operations would be conducted by the EMA, in the Ministry of the Environment, and not the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs. This move has received the support of all environmental groups.


Dr. Carol James, Veronica Simon-Wallace, Minister of Energy Senator Kevin Ramnarine, Ag. PS Mr. Richard Oliver, Dr. Judith Gobin, Ag. Director of Minerals Mr. Monty Beharry. Photo by Atkin Isaac.

05 Dec 2011

Minister Moonilal Visits

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright



Asa Wright Nature Centre had the pleasure of entertaining Minister of Housing and the Environment,

the Honourable Dr. Roodal Moonilal, at Spring Hill on November 14. The Minister had earlier indicated a desire to visit us following Chairman Dr. Judith Gobin’s letter of invitation to the Prime Minister and Members of Cabinet outlining the work of the Centre and seeking respite from quarrying and deforestation activities in the Arima Valley.

Included in the Minister’s party were DeputyPermanentSecretaryMr.Anthony Ramnarine, Special Advisor Mr. Asgar Ali, EMA CEO Dr. Joth Singh, the Minister’s Secretary Ms. Rose Yatali and others.

Welcoming the group on behalf of the Centre were Dr. Gobin, Director Dr. Carol James, CEO Mrs. Veronica Simon-Wallace and Lodge Manager Ann Sealey. Present also were our staff, as well as delegates from the communities of Paria Brasso Seco and Verdant Vale.

Upon arrival, the Minister’s party was taken to the iconic Verandah to absorb the view of the Arima Valley and to enjoy Asa Wright’s special “Mountain Ebony” coffee. Following a brief tour of the 102-year-old Main House, everyone gathered in the beautifully decorated Jade Vine Arbor, where Veronica Wallace welcomed the Minister and his party. Dr. Gobin then addressed the gathering, giving the history and then describing the Mission and Vision of the Centre. She also spoke about the threats to the valley from quarrying and deforestation, and asked the Minister to recognise and support the need for sustaining our wilderness areas.

In reply the Minister, alluding to this being the International Year of the Forests, expressed his concern for what he had seen

on the drive up to Spring Hill – quarrying, deforestation, monoculture farming and the consequent destruction of the road. He outlined the areas which his Ministry had already begun to tackle, and what they were working upon. He urged Asa Wright to make use of the now-active Green Fund, and assured his support for our work.

Following an exchange of gifts, refreshments were served before the party visited the Jonnie Fisk Conference Facility (the “Mango Room”), which the Minister said could serve as a venue for a cabinet meeting or retreat.

The Bellbird thanks the Minister for his visit and for the assurances he left with us as he departed. Come back soon, Sir!

29 Nov 2011

Deforestation Linked to Landslides

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright

The hills are alive but not with the sound of music. Sadly we refer to the fact that major landslips are already in motion around the five-mile mark of the Arima Blanchisseuse Road. For those of you who know the area well, you will be aware that these landslips are occurring along the roadway as it winds its way through the christophene farm.
We have always known that when the christophene farmer cleared the forest trees to plant the hanging vines, it was only a matter of time before the hills came sliding down. Appeals and complaints fell upon deaf ears and now the whole area has become “fluid” and is creeping across the roadway from above. What is frightening is the fact that the slippage is occurring below the road which will affect communities in Blanchisseuse,
Morne la Croix and Brasso Seco, and of course, the Asa Wright Nature Centre.
Our country does not yet accept the connection between deforestation and landslips or floods, and therefore almost anyone can denude a hillside for quarrying, buildings or farming. It seems there is no working authority in the land which can prevent this, except, maybe, public outcry. We urge our concerned citizens to speak out against all hillside deforestation and really hope we do not need to see the Arima Blanchisseuse Road closed for months to prove what all should already know.
We hope and pray for a minimum of rain for the rest of the year, in the hope that our only route to the outside remains open.

19 Oct 2011

Nobel Laureate economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz visits Asa Wright

Conservation & Education News

Professor Joseph Stiglitz

In September, we were honoured to have Nobel Laureate economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz stay at our very own Asa Wright Nature Centre. Mr. Stiglitz is currently a university professor at Columbia University and has authored many books on economics. Having previously made a brief trip to Asa Wright during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2009, Professor Stiglitz was eager for another peaceful rainforest experience.
Our Education and Community Outreach Specialist, Mr. Kenneth Fournillier, interviewed him at Dunston’s Cave. During their conversation, Professor Stiglitz referred to the friendly staff as well as the fantastic guides, food and birds as the factors that encouraged him to return. He said he wanted to share such a discovery with his wife.
We would like to thank Mr. Stiglitz for willingly doing this interview and we also thank him and his wife for being terrific guests!
J.L. Ryan

04 Aug 2011

Naparima Girls and Bishop Anstey students are winners in Arts and Essay contests

Conservation & Education News

Naparima Girls’ High School students Angelina Dookeran (l) and Anuradha Soondar (r) are flanked by various teachers, Principal Patricia Ramgoolam and Vice Principal Ms. Fairy Lalla.

Bishop Anstey High School, l-r: Principal, Patsy-Ann Rudder, Lilly Paul, Ariel Mendez, Alicia Barrie, Mrs. Khan and Johanne Ryan, Conservation Officer at AWNC.

In late 2010, in honour of the Year of Biodiversity, Asa Wright Nature Centre held its Secondary Schools’ Art &
Essay Competition. Bishop Anstey High School copped the AWNC Art Competition Challenge Trophy while Naparima Girls’ High School won the Essay Competition Challenge Trophy.

04 Aug 2011

Future Environmentalists learning at The Asa Wright Nature Centre

Conservation & Education News

Johanne Ryan, AWNC Conservation Officer, speaks to participants of the EMA Secondary Schools Environment Seminar. Photo: Ken Fournillier

We were privileged to host a group of sixth form students for seven days in July. This group, part of a project organised by the Environmental Management Authority, came to study the environment, and its threats, and spent one week discovering the benefits and beauty of our forests.
They also learned of the dangers to our ecosystems posed by quarrying, development and unmanaged agriculture. A unique aspect of the course they underwent was the arts and theatre presentations the students produced on their final evening in the Centre. That night the Mango Room became a mysterious forest as the students incorporated local forest folklore into their production, all directed towards the preservation of the environment.
We look forward to more of these student visits and initiatives.

08 Jul 2011

Nature joins with technology in virtual field trip at Asa Wright Nature Centre

Conservation & Education News

Since the dawn of the computer, technology and education have become inextricably linked. Teachers are constantly discovering new ways of nurturing this relationship, and the Asa Wright Nature Centre, of course, would like to keep pace with this trend. So when Mrs. Nadine McHenry provided the opportunity to collaborate with us on virtual field trips, we were intrigued.
Plans for this “Sharing the Environment” project kicked off in early 2010 with teacher training workshops at the Centre. Institutions in Trinidad (Atwell’s Educational Institute, St. Mary’s Children’s Home, Asa Wright Nature Centre) worked with those in the U.S. (Widener University and its charter school) so that students from each region could experience via Skype one another’s environment. Then, in May of 2011, students of Atwell’s Educational Institute and their new friends from the U.S. were able to embark on a field to rainforest at Asa Wright Nature Centre.
The first group of young “nature detectives” searched for local flora and fauna; producers and consumers. They spotted our regulars: agouti, golden tegus, hummingbirds, tanagers, several insects and even found a nest of baby spiders! Although our U.S. friends experienced a bit of difficulty viewing