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Defending habitat, preserving heritage on the Karaawaimin Taawa



The majestic mountains of Karaawaimin Taawa. Marlondag / FAO

In Guyana’s distant South Rupununi area, which abuts the northern border of the Brazilian Amazon, there’s a mountain vary that’s particularly essential to the Wapichan, an Indigenous group that lives within the space. Known as Karaawaimin Taawa, or Blue Clay Mountain, it’s a hotspot for biodiversity and a conventional searching, fishing, and gathering floor, which additionally serves as a big watershed for communities downstream.

Not too long ago, nevertheless, gold mining within the space has begun to affect the ecosystem. Rivers that beforehand ran clear have gotten cloudy, making conventional bow-and-arrow fishing extraordinarily tough. Wildlife populations are beginning to change as habitats are impacted. In that context, the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) – the main Indigenous group in South Rupununi – approached the Sustainable Wildlife Administration Programme (SWM), which has been supporting sustainable use and conservation initiatives within the Rupununi since 2018, to hold out a biodiversity evaluation of the Karaawaimin Taawa space.

Whereas the evaluation is the primary of its variety, the Wapichan have been monitoring and managing wildlife efficiently within the space for many years. Asaph Wilson is a Katoonarib villager, chicken identification skilled, and member of the South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS). He’s additionally one of many researchers concerned within the evaluation, which occurred in March 2022. Whereas the evaluation is being finalized for publication, we spoke with Asaph to listen to extra about his work, his expertise through the evaluation, and his hopes for the long run.

Asaph Wilson, a neighborhood chicken skilled, lives in Katoonarib Village of the South Rupununi. Luke McKenna / FAO

Q: What does being a monitor for the South Rupununi District Council entail?

A: I used to be working as a chicken skilled together with ornithologist Brian O’Shea. We had been doing a chicken survey for Karaawaimin Taawa and looking for which species had been current within the space. Whereas there have been fish scientists and bug scientists and lots of others, we had been trying on the birds.

Asaph Wilson and Brian O’Shea file the birds they discover within the Karaawaimin Taawa space. Marlondag / FAO

Q: Why did you select to do the biodiversity evaluation in Karaawaimin Taawa specifically?

A: We went there to do analysis as a result of the headwaters of our nation are increasingly essential, however the mining space there may be polluting the water – together with with mercury – and it’s the final pristine water space in the entire nation. A whole lot of villages rely on that water: in South, South Central and North Rupununi, all of the villagers reside alongside the rivers, and their fish and water are being contaminated with poison; some Indigenous villages have mentioned that they’ll’t even drink water from the river anymore. So we are attempting very arduous to guard our headwaters.

That’s why we went in to do a speedy evaluation of birds, bugs, mammals and fish, to see whether or not there have been any notably essential or endangered species in there that individuals ought to find out about.

Q: What was it like doing the evaluation?

A: It was a bit arduous for us logistically – we needed to hike in there. We had been in several teams relying on what we had been : birds, mammals, fish, beetles, bats, reptiles and amphibians. We additionally had an anthropologist. It was nice; we discovered a variety of issues – I feel there have been some frogs that had by no means been discovered earlier than. The entire evaluation lasted for 2 weeks, however we nonetheless have much more work to do, going ahead.

Q: Any highlights concerning the outcomes of the evaluation regarding birds?

A: The outcome exhibits that there’s a wholesome inhabitants of birds in that space, as a result of not too many individuals go there. There isn’t a industrial trapping or searching of birds as a result of entry may be very tough. Massive frugivores birds like guans and powis (currassows) had been notably considerable. These birds are essential as a conventional supply of meals and are additionally important seed dispersers. We discovered at the very least 15 species of parrots and 16 species of raptors through the evaluation, together with the slaty-backed forest-falcon and the harpy eagle. Many birds of prey are sturdy indicators of a wholesome ecosystem.

A pair of scarlet macaws fly from their nesting spot. Marlondag / FAO

Q: Do you suppose this data will assist shield the Karaawaimin Taawa?

A: Sure, we are attempting to develop an understanding with the federal government, as a result of we don’t need exploitation right here, particularly from gold mining or timber felling in our pristine forests. This data will assist us make a degree.


That is the primary article in a three-part collection on the Karaawaimin Taawa Biodiversity Evaluation, the outcomes of which will likely be printed in 2023.


For more information on the SWM Programme, be part of on-line to view the facet occasion “Wild meat and the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework: highlights from the Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme” on the Conference on Organic Range (CBD) CoP 15 on Tuesday, 13 December, 1:15 pm EST.

The Sustainable Wildlife Administration Programme in Guyana is a part of the worldwide Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States initiative, funded by the European Union, with co-funding from the French Facility for International Atmosphere and the French Improvement Company. The purpose is to enhance meals safety and the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife in forest, savannah, and wetland environments in 15 international locations.


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