IN a bid to raise awareness of the importance of Rupununi bird conservation and to increase affinity for the endangered species, two grassroots organisations – the South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS) and the Karasabai Conservation Group – held the first-ever “Lethem Bird Fair” at the Manari Ranch.
Guyana, particularly the Rupununi, is home to amazing wildlife that attracts tourists from all over the world.
“In particular, one of the biggest attractions is birds. There are many species of birds in Guyana which bring in birdwatchers across the globe including the Harpy Eagle, the Red-fan Parrot and Guianan Cock-of-the-rock,” SRCS Programme Director Neal Millar shared with Pepperpot Magazine.
However, whilst over 800 species of birds can be found in Guyana, they also face multiple threats. The caged bird trade, for instance, is having a noticeable population decrease for popular song birds such as the Towa Towa and the Twa Twa. Also, habitat destruction through illegal logging, wildfires and land clearances are also impacting the homes of numerous species which is impacting their population.
To help combat these issues, the two organisations thought that hosting the fair would promote environmental education and awareness. Over 200 people attended the event which included activities such as “Guess the Bird,” bag decorating, craft making, basket weaving, face painting, costume competitions, quizzes and more.
The event was aimed primarily at children and the organisers provided free transportation to bring participants from the communities of Lethem, St Ignatius, Moco Moco, Hiowa and Nappi to attend the event. The winners of the costume competition were a Sun Parakeet, a Crimson Topaz and a Scarlet Macaw.
“The event was supported by One Earth Conservation and the Guyana Tourism Authority. Both organisations highlighted that without a healthy bird population, less [sic] tourists will want to come to Guyana which will damage the country’s growing tourism plans and impact the local economy. It is therefore essential that awareness is raised about the importance of preserving the bird population in Guyana and that conservation action [s] are implemented,” Millar shared.
Owing to the huge success of the fair, the organisations hope to partner again to attempt to make the event an annual one where more people can be involved and more activities can be added.
Meanwhile, of all the regions in Guyana, the Rupununi is one of the most frequented by birdwatchers due to the unique species that can be easily found there. Some ‘Endangered’ species are the Red Siskin and the Sun Parakeet, whilst two ‘Critically Endangered’ ones are the Hoary-throated Spinetail and the Rio Branco Antbird.
“These species are an attraction for tourists as it is difficult to find them in other parts of the world and for some, it is even impossible and the Rupununi is the only place where they can be found in the wild. However, these species are at risk of extinction and are very sensitive to changes in their habitats or population. Without conservation intervention, it is possible that these at-risk species will go extinct in Guyana,” Millar pointed out.
It is for these reasons that the two organisations have been implementing conservation projects to protect these birds in communities in the Rupununi. The Karasabai Conservation Group has been monitoring the Sun Parakeet, whilst SRCS has been monitoring and protecting the Red Siskin, the Hoary-throated Spinetail and the Rio Branco Antbird. These projects have been successful in raising local awareness in the South Rupununi and the South Pakaraimas.
“Yet despite the efforts of these groups, the birds still face threats from illegal trapping and trading, habitat destruction and the pet trade. In addition, Lethem is often a point where many illegally traded birds pass through yet there are not many conservation-focused events that occur in the area which means people, especially children, don’t get the opportunity to learn more about birds, their importance to ecosystems and the need for their conservation,” Millar further highlighted.