By Francis Quamina Farrier
THIS is a return to an issue that was addressed some years ago: the legal protection of those iconic giant ant hills in the Central Rupununi, Region Nine. With the ongoing development of Lethem, Campbelltown and surrounding areas where many of the anthills are located, some nature-lovers are of the view that legal protection of those giant anthills has become necessary. Many feel that their future is in jeopardy. The recent issue with those trees which line the Mabaruma public road in Region One is a very recent example.
It shows that Guyanese are becoming more environmentally conscious and would make their objections known, whenever aspects of the environment are endangered. In this article, I pre-empt any reckless act by anyone who may have little or no interest in the future of those giant anthills. It has already been established that they are tourist attractions and as such, play an important role in Guyana’s tourism industry. Some folk even feel that they embellish the landscape. A tourist looking out from their hotel balcony or room, and seeing those tall cone-shaped images all across the landscape, gets the feeling of awe — of knowing that little insects were working hard many centuries ago, decorating the landscape and making the environment so much more attractive.
With the recent announcement that the trees which line the public road at Mabaruma in Region One were to be cut down, voices of residents and many others beyond were raised in objection and protest. That resulted in an immediate halt to the plan to cut down those iconic trees. Those trees have been saved due to the outcry by patriotic citizens who felt that it was a bad plan. It was a reminder that other trees such as the Mangrove are protected by law. It shows that many people are cognizant of how important trees are in our “Green Land of Guyana.” Any unlawful cutting down of the Mangrove can result in a huge fine and imprisonment for the person if found guilty in a court of law. Those mangrove trees help to protect us from the encroaching waves of the Atlantic, and no damage or destruction to them is permitted. There are large signboards placed in some strategic locations which have a message which state in part, “The Mangrove protect us, we must protect them.”
Regarding the giant anthills in Region Nine, I first saw these iconic ‘structures’ on my first visit to Lethem many years ago. I have visited that area of our beautiful Guyana many times and have always been in awe of those giant anthills which were constructed centuries ago by humble, little, hard-working ants. I use the word “constructed,” because those ant hills were actually constructed by those little ants. These giant ant hills have been regarded as tourist attractions for a very long time, albeit, not officially as far as I know.
While in the area during a devastating flood some years ago, I observed that not a single one of those anthills was in the floodwater. It seems that the ants had a keen knowledge of the topography of the land and built their “hills” only on the high ground. While the flood water inundated many of the farms, dwelling houses and business places, I noted that not a single anthill was in the water. Amazing! While on visits to Ghana in West Africa, I also saw many of the anthills in the hinterland areas of the country; but they are not as tall as those in Guyana.
Regarding the future of those giant anthills, it is felt that dedicating laws to protect those iconic gems of nature is now timely. Lethem is expanding and it should not be at the expense of those giant anthills which are rather unique and must be protected for the benefit not only of the present Guyanese and tourists but also for future generations of Guyanese.