Fish and Marine Life in the Iwokrama Rain Forest
Whilst the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway doesn’t have any major rivers nearby the area does have seasonal swamps and stream. But it is only a short drive to important waterways within the Iwokrama Forest and in the Rupununi Savannahs.
The Iwokrama Forest and the Rupununi wetlands are home to an extremely high diversity of fish. 420 species have been identified, exceedingly high since only a small portion of the rivers have been surveyed and with further surveys up to 600 species are expected. In comparison, there are only 700 species of fish in all of North America. The Iwokrama Forest has the world’s largest recorded fish diversity, for an area its size.
One of the most significant inhabitants of Guyana’s interior waterways is the enormous Arapaima (Arapaima gigas), a highly endangered and poorly understood species that has been subject to extreme overfishing in neighboring countries. Since the 1960s, concerns have been expressed about the fate of the fish, and the need for it to be protected. During that time, it was disclosed that the arapaima, which inhabits the Rupununi River, was being ruthlessly harvested and sold across the border in Brazil, mostly by Amerindians. The NRDDB was one of eight local civil society organisations (CSOs) which were recently awarded grants for environmental and livelihood benefits to communities under the UNDP/Global Environment Facility (GEF), Small Grants Programme (SGP). The NRDDB received the sum of Gy$9.8M to strengthen the capacities of its 16 Amerindian communities to manage the arapaima fish and fisheries of the North Rupununi wetlands via capacity building, arapaima surveys, conservation education and awareness, consultations, and development of management plans.
Nearby, a landmark “conservation concession,” has been set up by Conservation International in partnership with the government of Guyana. Instead of leasing the land to a logging company, Guyana is leasing 200,000 acres (81,000 hectares) along the Essequibo River to CI for conservation.
The concession – the world’s first – was established in Guyana’s Upper Essequibo region in July 2002. “It puts conservation on equal footing with extractive industry, so that the government and people of Guyana don’t have to choose between conservation and economic development,” says Dr. Dick Rice, CI’s chief economist and architect of the concession. “With total annual costs of less than $100,000 per year, it is a great bargain, given the importance of the area for both biodiversity and people.
“The aquatic ecosystems of the Upper Essequibo Conservation Concession (UECC) are one of the most pristine, if not the most pristine, on the planet,” concluded scientist Dr. Philip Willink, of The Field Museum in Chicago, after a 2007 survey.
This abundance of healthy fresh water supports an amazing diversity of species: 1,500 plants, 200 mammals, and 500 birds are found in the vicinity – as many bird species as are found in all of North America.
The Macushi and Wapishana indigenous groups depend on the area’s natural resources, and communities near the concession – in Apoteri, Rewa, and Crashwater – helped to demarcate boundaries to ensure that the UECC would not conflict with traditional claims.
Select Species Regularly Observed Nearby
Piranhas are commonly consumed by subsistence fishermen, and often sold for food in local markets. In recent decades, dried specimens have been marketed as tourist souvenirs.Piranhas occasionally bite and sometimes injure bathers and swimmers. A piranha bite is considered more an act of carelessness than that of misfortune, but piranhas are a considerable nuisance to commercial and sport fishers because they steal bait, mutilate catch, damage nets and other gear, and may bite when handled.