Trinidad judge dismisses dozens of charges against couple found with 55 protected animals

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A judge in Trinidad & Tobago has angered environmentalists by dismissing charges against a couple who were found with 55 protected animals caged at their home amid a no-trapping, no-hunting moratorium in the Caribbean nation.

Activists contend the ruling makes a mockery of the intent of the moratorium. Local conservation group official Marc de Verteuil said Thursday that the decision tells wildlife offenders they are free to trap and cage protected creatures.

In dropping the case, the judge ordered authorities to return the seized birds, turtles and a monkey back to the pair. Judge Lucina Cardenas-Ragoonanan only reprimanded the wife.

Last year, the government transformed Trinidad's hinterlands into a no-hunting zone to give overexploited animals some breathing room.