A local environmentalist is calling on the nation to pay homage to Gabriel “Coco” Charles by placing greater emphasis on environmental conservation here. “That name must not be lost in the annals of our conscience,” says Donald Anthony a Conservation Biologist. “He was a great man and apart from creating an awareness of some of our endemic species like the Amazona Versicolor – our national bird – he also helped save it from total extinction,” Anthony tells the STAR.He also recalls that Charles singlehandedly spearheaded the prevention of a plan to have a highway pass through the centre of the rainforest. “Every time he passed through the Barre D’ Lisle, he would say ‘Donald, feel the air … the forest influence,’ ” Anthony says.
“It would literally kill him if he was alive today, to see what we are doing to the environment, the forest, the land, the rivers, the beaches,” he adds.
“It makes no sense naming a place after a man, when the ethics of the conservation message that this man embodied are not upheld,” says Anthony. He believes that as the nation celebrates 36 years of independence, it is time to reflect on the environmental degradation caused by man to this country and examine ways to reverse the trend, before it is too late.
“For me this is how we can show our love and respect for a man who worked so hard for this country. He was savvy, he was bold, he was a conquerer and truly believed in what he did,” Anthony maintains.
On August 31,1993 Gabriel “Coco” Charles’ vehicle overturned at the Desruisseaux junction. It was later revealed that the cause of death was a heart attack. He was only 58. The island had lost a son of the soil and Saint Lucia’s first chief forestry officer, who had impacted immensely on the protection and conservation of one of our most precious resources, the land itself.
“He died en route doing the things he loved including an early morning bird watch with a few friends,” Anthony says. “And we should do all in our powers to carry on his legacy by showing our love for this country and appreciation for the flora, fauna, plants, animals, forest, which give it its natural beauty.”