Saving wildlife, Detta’s passion

Saving wildlife, Detta’s passion

25 April 2016

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Trinidad and Tobago– Whenever Detta Buch looks out from her Four Roads home and sees the mountain ranges in Diego Martin on fire she feels an enormous sadness. For Kenya-born Buch, 75, of Dutch and English parentage, it looks like “Eden” on fire.

“I also feel angry and disappointed. If you set fire to trees, they may never grow back in your lifetime.”

Buch, who has a degree in Fine Art, veered off her career path to form and run, virtually alone now, the Wildlife Orphanage & Rehabilitation Centre (WORC). A mother of three, she lives alone and spends most of her time rehabilitating animals, “racing” on the roads during rescues.

Since she started WORC in 1988, she and volunteers have rehabilitated and released birds, silky anteaters and other wildlife injured by bush fires and rescued by the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project—a NGO based in the St Ann’s hills.

“They are God’s creation. They have a right to be here and we were supposed to be stewards of these animals.

“Whatever happened to that? I think we have a worldwide crisis of ethics.”

Buch who came to T&T in 1978 said her father, a Kenyan farmer, instilled a love for animals and nature in his children.

“There were animals all around but everything was dry and arid and it was hard to get anything to grow.

“And you come here and it’s Eden.”

Buch said T&T is really an offshore Amazonian island, high biodiversity, and legislation must change in respect of those setting fires. This year, Buch was not able to save any animals burnt in a number of fires that wasted the remaining patches of green on western slopes of the Northern Range in Diego Martin.

“The slopes are almost bare now.”

Since February, the hills there have been burning, she said. She described this year’s fire as “savage”. A major fire, which prevailing winds kept reigniting, lasted six to seven days.

“The wind would catch smoldering logs and reignite them. Then the fire would die down and reignite again.”

Apart from Bambi buckets which appeared from a helicopter at one time, Buch said she saw no one else fighting the fires.

“All the animals living in the hills, mostly birds and mammals, would have been incinerated or died from smoke inhalation.

“And this is their breeding season.”

Buch said her own house was blanketed in smoke and her bookshelves covered in ash. She is preparing for major flooding in the St Ann’s and Diego Martin areas in the upcoming rainy season because of the destruction of the trees on the hills.

“There are no trees to retain the water and it runs off into the rivers which flood when it rains.

“My house was under four feet of water in 2012 and other parts of Diego Martin were flooded out because of this.”

Despite her sadness and disappointment, Buch presses on with her mission to rescue T&T’s wildlife which she described as a “national resource.” At her home/animal hospital, she has about 13 animals, mostly birds, many rescued from previous bush fires.

A spectacled owl was rescued from a previous fire but died of smoke inhalation that same night, she said.

“A silky anteater was brought to me with singed fur and he was rehabilitated and released.”

A macaw that was being smuggled was purchased by conservationist, Marc de Verteuil and brought to Buch.

And she had a seven-foot long iguana that was being peddled on the roadside in Mayaro that a couple paid for and brought to her.

“He was damaged and being rehabilitated in a large cage. One day I found the cage empty.”

Buch even once had a giant otter that was being smuggled but was rescued and brought to her. Her day begins at 6 am and ends no earlier than 1.30 am, she said.

“I have to feed and clean the cages and I have to stay up late to see about the animals that feed at night.

“Volunteers are very hard to get now.”

Buch runs the centre mostly from private sector donations and said she was never successful in getting a government grant.

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