Coiba Cattle Headed for the Slaughterhouse

PANAMA - Time is running out for the cattle herd that have been wandering the former penal colony of Coiba Island for years.
calendar icon 28 August 2009
clock icon 2 minute read

Javier Arias, director of the country's chief environmental authority (ANAM), said he intends to ask for a $30,000 grant from the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to fund a project to enclose and eventually slaughter the 2,500 cows that now pose a threat to the national park, which UNESCO declared a World Herald Site in 2005.

The plan starts with the construction of cattle ranches in three different areas of the 120-hectare island, according to Each site would have sufficient pasture to maintain the cattle over an eight-month period. After fattening up, they would be herded into pens for veterinary evaluation.

The funding would also cover the cost of hiring wranglers to gather the wild herd that became the charge of ANAM last week after the Ministry of Government and Justice turned them loose.

Mr Arias said that the only detail that remains to be determined is whether the animals will be slaughtered on the island or transferred to slaughterhouses on the mainland. The meat, he added, would be distributed among the communities nearest the nature preserve.

UNESCO expressed its concern over the presence of livestock in Coiba National Park in a report issued in June, and requested that the Panamanian government develop a plan to remove the cattle.

Mr Arias reported that the National Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (Senacyt) will launch a program on the island aimed at eradicating the parasites and predators of the cattle.

Jorge Ricardo Fabrega, Vice Minister of Government and Justice, has asked that the process be documented to preserve this chapter in the island's history.

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