wildlife
Giant River Otter (Quadad de Freitas Photo)

Coexistence of humans and wildlife critical in fight against climate change

Highlighting some of the challenges, the local conservation authority in Guyana gave an account of the experiences faced in the environmental sector.
Highlighting some of the challenges, the local conservation authority in Guyana gave an account of the experiences faced in the environmental sector.

Just like humans, animals too are faced with challenges of climate change. The disruption of their natural habitats by climate change (floods, heat waves etc.), human activities such as deforestation and other contributing factors has led to the displacement and even extinction of a plethora of animal species.

Due to Guyana’s mass forested landscape, it is home to some of the world’s most coveted wildlife and flora. From the national bird ‘Canje Pheasant’ to the bushy-tailed Anteater, all of Guyana’s biodiverse lands continue to stand out in the spotlight. But if the pressures of our human existence along with added factors such as the climate crisis tips the balance of life and our wildlife continues to diminish rapidly, what’s next?

Mr. Deuel Hughes, Communications Officer of the Guyana Wildlife Conservation and Management Commission (GWCMC), explained that it is critical for humans and wildlife to be able to coexist in the ecosystem, where he specifically highlighted that the issue of causalities involving Guyana’s national animal the Jaguar and its protection remains paramount. Jaguars play an important role in maintaining the structure and function of the ecosystems they inhabit. As top predators, they help to keep a balance in the food chain where they live, playing an important role in controlling the populations of other species and promoting healthy ecosystems.

wildlife
Awareness session on human and jaguar conflict in mining sector (GWCMC Photo)

“The reality of the matter is, most of the time it is the jaguars who are there in the wild first or in a particular area and then over time, humans then inhabit those areas. So because humans move in, I mean, yes, sometimes the Jaguar might move away, but you would still find times where the Jaguars would come around. Because remember, they were initially there first, but then as humans move in, and this is various reasons. It could be persons like miners who move into areas on a short term basis and then there are even some places where housing development is done in areas where before time they were Bush (forested).

As he gave detail, Mr. Hughes said that there has been a multiplicity of factors that contribute to Jaguars sighting and conflict in prone areas, “This could be for instance humans hunting of the jaguar, it could be that the jaguar is injured, it could be an older jaguar hunting for an easy prey, and it could be that persons are not vigilant of how they are caring for their livestock. So persons who mine like sheep, goats and cattle, mostly in the hinterland region especially, and even right on the coast, in what we would call our ‘back dam’, persons just allow their animals to roam freely, so that’s easy prey for the Jaguar.

By keeping herbivorous prey in check, jaguars shield the grasslands and forests from overgrazing, helping them to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. A more bountiful region means a more powerful ally in the fight against climate change. According to the GWCMC Communication Officer the conservation agency is very robust in their mission of promoting wildlife protection.

“Generally once we get reports of such issue we would first of all make contact with persons and try to make an assessment of all possible reasons why the Jaguar will be around where you know we must coexist. In instances where persons report to us that the Jaguars are around, we try to assess, first of all, what is taking place, and then we give recommendations based on the assessment.”

He added that some of the recommendations would include “Ensuring that you have proper structures for housing your domestic animals, for persons who rear cattle ensuring that you have proper pens to keep your animals in. We encourage persons to be vigilant in terms of not just allowing your cattle to roam freely, but at least have a human presence with them while they are out there. Ensuring persons dispose of their food waste properly. For persons who would rear cattle we recommend that flashing lights be installed around the premises because that actually serves as a deterrent from time to time. Sometimes this is a particular issue that is not easily dealt with because there is no one solution for it, and so it is on a case by case basis.”

The safety of various wild life remains a trialing issue, as of recent as 2021, there was public uproar of the killing of one Jaguar in the Central Rupununi which had the attention of many on social media.

Through the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund, projects across various countries in the world were supported to reduce the vulnerability of wildlife, including pressures on target species and community’s adaptation of climate change. Similarly, wildlife preservation has always been a top priority of the GWCMC said Mr. Hughes as the agency would have embarked on the recent introduction of its license agreement. While licensing promotes the safe trade of wildlife it must be noted that it does not promote the use of protected and endangered species.

“So we have six categories of licenses that persons have to abide by as long as they’re engaged in the wildlife trade locally. The only animals or species that persons are not allowed to trade in are the protected species and well there is a whole long list of those. Just a few examples, we have all the wild cats in Guyana are protected, you have six wildcat species those are protected. The giant anteater is a protected species, the giant river otter and the harpy eagle are all protected species that persons cannot apply for and would not be given license for. Some species have flow seasons, so for instance from January to June, all bird species have flow seasons. During that time even if you have a license you cannot hunt, trap, sell or be involved in the trade anyhow with those species.”

wildlife
The Jaguar is Guyana’s National Animal (Omar Mena Photo)

Education through sensitisation, awareness and having a hands on approach highlighting the importance of wildlife is one core function on the agenda of the Commission.

“We would have held several sessions on dealing with wildlife hunting, these sessions were held with cattle farmers in Region Five in the Abary River, Region Six at Corriverton, Region Two with farmers at Mainstay and we also had had engagements with persons in the mining sector. I think one of the things is having consultations with communities, in terms of issues that you’re facing with wildlife. Having a coordinated approach in terms of government, or even us an organization, ensuring that we liaise with local communities to understand their issues and to come up with different strategies to ensure the protection of wildlife. We actually got on the ground and understood what was happening in the trade. How locals relate to wildlife and through those discussions, you’re able to devise a proper strategy for dealing with wildlife and licensing especially.”

The WWF notes ‘that the Amazon is critical to our efforts to avoid a climate catastrophe. Water vapor released from the Amazon creates vast “flying rivers” in the atmosphere, which influence rainfall and thus agricultural production in central and southern South America. And the billions of tons of carbon stored in the Amazon rain forest is of global importance to slowing climate change.’

Mr. Hughes echoed the sentiments that the Conservation and Management Commission believes the forests and natural habitats for wildlife should be preserved to maintain a sustainable sense of balance.

“Of course, we are governed by an act, wildlife conservation and management of 2016 and of course, the Amerindians are governed by their own act. We ensure that there must be coherence in the terms of how they utilize wildlife. Remember they have been using wildlife for years and their strategies of course, have not led to the depletion of wildlife resources… We support the protection of the forests. And even as we know, this taking the standpoint of the LCDS which of course is aimed at development through sustainable means, especially through protecting our forests. We can only see that as being beneficial for the protection of our wildlife and for the sustenance of our wildlife. The forests are basically the habitat of these wildlife animals and if the forest is destroyed for whatever reason then it affects the animals and eventually it is going to affects us because all of these animals and habitats that they exist in they play an important role in maintaining life on Earth.”


This story was originally published by Island Press Box, with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture between Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.

Ronald Taylor
Ronald Taylor, 24 years, aries by nature, Guyanese born is a news anchor, photographer, and editor. Ronald started his career in communications mid – 2016 as a junior reporter and throughout the years embodied every aspect of media offered. Ronald has worked with the Office of the President, Office of Climate change (OCC), Department of Events, Conferences and Communications (DECC), University of Guyana, and other Agencies in providing coverage of events and activities in Guyana.