GUAM PROTESTERS DECRY NAVY PLANS TO CULL CARABAO

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By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Aug. 14) - More than 100
people and three carabao staged a peaceful protest outside a Navy base in Santa
Rita yesterday afternoon in opposition to the military's decision to begin
shooting the lumbering beasts of burden that graze on the Navy's property.

The Navy began culling the herds of water buffalo with
sharpshooters in May, and as of last weekend they had killed 63, according to
Department of Agriculture officials.

Navy spokeswoman Lt. Thurraya Kent has said that the gargantuan
wild carabao, which by conservative estimates numbered close to 300 before the
culling began, roam around the Naval Ordnance Magazine, presenting both health
an environmental risks, and impairing the ability of Navy personnel on the
magazine to adequately perform their mission.

The Navy has long been attempting to reduce the carabao
population, but Kent said attempts at adopting the carabao out to the community
and using birth control techniques have not been successful on their own, so the
Navy decided to add culling to the techniques used to reduce the population.

But protesters disagreed with the method. Protesters yesterday
chanted "Save the culture, save the carabao!" and carried signs
reading "Stop the Slaughter," and "Respect Guam Law!"

Sinajana resident Fanai Castro, 22, held a sign reading
"Any way you shoot it ... Genocide!" featuring a painting of a gun at
point-blank range at the head of a carabao.

"I'm here because this is about more than the carabao,"
she said. "It's about our culture, and it's about the military's constant
disregard of our culture."

"There's always an alternative solution to killing,"
she said.

Ben Del Rosario, 45, of Mangilao said that the Navy didn't have
a right to shoot the animals.

"I know the carabao are not native to the island, but they
were here long before the Navy was," he said. "I think (the protest)
will raise the awareness level. ... Protesting has to work, there's no choice.
This has got to stop."

Kent said she supported the rights of the protesters.

"As military personnel we fight for liberties and for
people to have the right to protest as long as they see fit. We're glad it was
peaceful," she said.

She said the Navy would continue to support the carabao adoption
program organized by the Department of Agriculture's Division of Aquatic and
Wildlife Resources and the Mayors Council of Guam.

"The Navy is always in consultation with (Aquatic and
Wildlife) to find the best method of reducing the population of the carabao,"
Kent said. "The population must be reduced for safety and health concerns,
and that won't change, but today's protest does remind us that people have
strong views about it."

Paul Bassler, agriculture department director, said his agency
and the Navy have differing legal opinions regarding how much say the local
government has over what the military does with the natural resources on its
Guam property.

He expressed hope that the Agriculture Department and the Mayors
Council can expand the adoption program to the point that it no longer will be
necessary to kill the animals.

"We do share their desire to get them off the base,"
Bassler said. "And we would prefer that they not shoot them, but I have to
say they've been cooperative with us in terms of the adoption program."

Several senators took part in the protest as well.

"Certainly the treatment of this animal is uncivilized and
very disrespectful to the people of Guam and the heritage of the Chamorros,"
said Sen. Carmen Fernandez, D-Yona.

Talofofo resident John Raymond Aguon, 43, brought two of the
eight carabao he owns to the protest. Aguon said he doesn't understand why the
Navy won't just fence the carabao out of the magazine.

"Over 70 percent of the people here are veterans, so we're
not against the military," he said. "This is just a loud knocking on
the door of the Navy, saying, 'Hey, work with us so we can work with you.'"

Aguon said he would adopt as many carabao as he was allowed to.

"The carabao has done nothing wrong," he said.

August 14, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com 

 

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