On Friday last, 3rd March, World Wildlife Day was commemorated worldwide. The theme of this year’s commemoration is: “Listen to young voices” when serious effort would be made to engage young people in the philosophy and practice of the protection and conservation of Wildlife.
In Guyana, the leadership of this effort falls under the aegis of the Wildlife Division which is associated with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of plants and animals (CITES).
In the Western World we have only comparatively recently discovered the importance of the protection and conservation of wildlife. In ancient Societies, as for example the Buddhist-Hindu Tradition, they believed all Life to be one, analogous to the flame of one candle lighting a thousand, the flame of each candle being the same as the others.
Doing violence to any life-form is therefore ultimately doing violence to one’s self and to others. Ancient Buddhist societies therefore maintained animal hospitals and protected trees, especially medicinal ones, in special groves. In the West, we are now forcefully discovering as John Donne, the Metaphysical Poet puts it “No man is an island”.
Environmentalists and Ecologists state the same concept pointing out the interdependency of all Life. Every living thing – tree or animal – plays its part in achieving a Balance of Nature and makes life of Man more secure and safer. No one knows exactly the role of these myriads of life-forms and how they enrichen, protect and stabilize human existence.
For example, in New England in the United States, many years ago, the apple orchards were being attacked by insects and they successfully eliminated them. Next year, however, they had a very poor crop since the bees and other insects which pollinated the blossoms had all been eliminated. It was only then that the farmers realized that a bountiful crop depended on the insects.
World Wildlife Day is more important to Guyana than most other countries in the world. Guyana is one of the very few countries where most of its territory is covered with pristine forests containing many rare and endangered plants and where many endangered animals still dwell. This is a unique national resource of which immediate use could be made and other uses still awaiting discovery. For example, there are many medicinal plants in our forests and many more still to be discovered. There are many unique animal species such as the Giant Anteater or the Arapaima, the largest freshwater fish in the world. Or many strange and colourful birds. The Canje Pheasant, the National Bird, for example, is a rare bird whose body has some of the characteristics of an animal. Guyana presents to the world a unique laboratory where scientists of many disciplines could do notable work and probably make new discoveries.
Among the many offerings which the pristine flora and fauna of the Guyana Hinterland holds out is Eco-Tourism which the Government of Guyana and commercial interests have taken with enthusiasm. Sun-and-sand tourism which has brought prosperity to several Caribbean islands is unstable and has many negative social effects. Eco-tourism is not only a more profitable form of tourism but has many positive social effects.
The promotional and marketing material published by the Tourism Ministry and the Tourism Association is educational and informative and the public would do well to read them. One would understand why Guyana is a bird-watchers’ paradise and know more about the Harpy, the largest of the world’s eagles or the Arapaima, the world’s freshwater fish.
In giving greater meaning to this year’s World Wildlife Day’s theme “Listen to Young Voices”, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Association should cooperate in having ecology and protection of endangered species be made a part of the syllabus of the Teachers’ College and the school system. Once this is done, the population would come to recognize the value of protecting all life-forms and would realize the economic value of such effort.