Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur, is reported to have applied for permits to introduce a colony of endangered lemurs to his British Virgin Islands (BVI), Mosquito and Necker. Having “rescued” the island of Mosquito from purchase by a hotel chain in 2007, his intention was to turn his £10 million Caribbean tax haven into an ecological showcase, a luxury hideaway for the mega rich, with plans for Balinese-style, carbon neutral villas whilst “cultivating and supporting the biodiversity, then introducing habitats (such as rainforests) for people who will live in symbiotic form”.
The fanciful whimsy of the rich and famous is nothing new, however this controversial proposal has hit the headlines in BVI because it would appear that Branson has been granted import permits by the Natural Resources and Labour Minister, Hon. Omar Hodge, against the recommendations of technical groups in the Agriculture and Conservation sectors and in contravention of Territory laws. The decision is being contested by the Ninth district elections contender, Lorie Rymer and a petition is reported to be in circulation and will later be submitted to the Governor Boyd McClearly, who is appointed by the Queen and exercises executive authority on her behalf. Meanwhile, Minister Hodge is standing firm but has apparently alienated members of the community by stating on local radio that he “doesn’t have to answer to anyone because he is the Minister”.