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Guardian of the tropical jungle: Tobago's forest spirit really exists
He puts the fear of God into careless hunters: if you kill too many animals, Papa Bois will come and get you, goes the legend. And that’s what Tobago’s inhabitants now call David Rooks in their old Patois language: "Father of the forests". Since, just like the legendary character of the same name, the lively 67-year-old is considered as the guardian of Tobago’s jungle, the oldest rainforest reserve in the world.

By Bernhard Grdseloff
David Rooks, father of Tobago's forest
David Rooks, father of Tobago's forest

The mountain forest in the center of Tobago was declared a protected area as long ago as 225 years.

For over a decade, scientist Steven Hales had fought for the corresponding resolution to be made by the London Parliament. The researcher had recognized what an important part the tropical jungle played in the global climate and warned of cutting down wood recklessly.

"Thanks to him, a fifth of Tobago’s surface area today is like a small-scale Amazon rainforest with unspoiled flora and fauna." Rooks is pleased to say. "And all that just an hour from any of our hotels."

As a voluntary member of the forest authorities, the former oil engineer puts the fear of God into environmental criminals and poachers. Apart from that he assisted in the making of many award-winning nature documentaries on Trinidad and Tobago. And when he takes holidaymakers through the rainforest armed with his binoculars, he really does look a bit like the legendary Papa Bois.
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