Pond 'creature' identified

SWAMP Thing: The "monster" scaring people away from the Usine Ste Madeleine Sugar Factory ponds for months is likely just this bird — an anhinga, gorging on fish.

The mystery has been unraveled.

The "creature" living in a pond near the Usine Ste Madeleine Sugar Factory and scaring fishermen for the past year now has a name.

What many described as a giant anaconda slithering through the grass at water's edge — and eating all the fish is likely a skinny bird — is an anhinga.

After months of trying, our photographer captured an image of the "thing."

It's a blurry photograph in the tradition of the pictures of the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, and the Abominable Snowman.

It was in April 2007 that the sighting of the thing along the marshy banks of the river began to assume legendary proportions. Those who saw it dropped fishing lines and rods, and ran. Those who heard the story stayed away, and often, the popular fishing hole was deserted. Fishermen stopped paddling out to the middle in dingies and inflatable tyres, to cast for talapia.

Elvis Foster was one of the believers.

He told the Express that at dusk one night, he was standing on the eastern shore, knee deep in the grass, when the thing came swimming towards him.

He said: "Nothing moves like that but a very big snake. I didn't wait to draw no sketch. I leave everything. (fishing) line, rod, net, and run". Foster's description — a smooth black head, eyes glistening white, the size of a football.

Since the first report, several people, including Wasim Wahad-Ali, had gone in search of the creature.

He and the others never found a thing. News came last Christmas that the anaconda had been caught.

There was never proof, but the fisherfolk returned. Then early morning motorists travelling along the Manahambre Road, which links Princes Town to San Fernando, began telling of a big black bird with a snake-like neck, and shiny black body, diving underwater and staying for minutes at a time, before emerging with a fish in a hooked beak.

The solitary bird, many of which visit the Wildfowl Trust at Petrotrin, Pointe-a-Pierre and feed along the Gulf of Paria coastline, has found its way to the pond miles inland.

The pond is one of several that encircles the decommissioned sugar factory. Game Wardens at the Wildlife Division of the Agriculture Ministry identified the bird as an anhinga.

It is described as a large waterbird, with an almost primitive appearance, with a long neck, held in an S shape, making it appear almost reptilian. It feeds on frogs, tadpoles, fish and insects. The bird is protected by law. 

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