The tropical rainforests of the Guianas (Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana) are home to an impressive array of wildlife. The Guianas as part of the Guiana Shield Eco-region, unique for its richness in biodiversity, is home to many endemic species. The Guiana’s ecosystems provide habitats to over 2268 species of birds, 1630 species of freshwater fishes, 600 species of mammals, 530 species of reptiles and 332 species of amphibians. Approximately 25% of mammals, 13% of birds, 41% amphibians, 35% reptiles and more than 20% of freshwater fish species in the Guianas are considered vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, extinct or extinct in the wild, based on global evaluation.
The Guianas is an attractive haven for wildlife not only because of its vast expanse of rainforests they can call home but also due to the low population pressure (mostly along the coast) in the Guianas, allowing species to flourish with limited interaction. Amongst the very special species found in the Guianas is the jaguar, the largest cat of South America, the giant river otter, the arapaima, Arapaima gigas, black caiman, and giant anteater.
Significant populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles are declining. This loss of species is for the most part the result of unsustainable levels of hunting, collecting and poaching of endangered and protected species, such as the iconic jaguar, parrots and marine turtles, for the illegal wildlife trade. According to persons in the illegal jaguar trade, it is becoming more difficult to find jaguars.
Forest loss though land-use activities such as mining, agricultue and infastructue development are main drivers of habitat loss in the Guianas. For animal species that call the forests home, loss of habitat means that are forced to live in fragments areas where it becomes difficult to survive. They become more accessible to hunters and poachers, their numbers begin to dwindle and some eventually face extinction.
Many threatened and endangered species like the marine turtle and the jaguar are facing increased pressure from poachers and hunters who are involved in the illegal trade and trafficking. Various exotic birds and reptiles are hunted and sold. Of great concern also are our iconic species, the jaguar, and the sea turtle. The eggs laid by sea turtles on our beaches are also taken and sold illegally and jaguars is hunted and killed, and their body parts sold for traditional medicine.
WWF has and continues to work hard towards conservation of wildlife, especially the endangered and threatened species of the Guianas. Every project or initiative, from forest conservation to advocacy for policies, has direct or indirect impact on wildlife conservation.
WWF-Guianas, together with its partners (NJWS) is working on a jaguar conservation project to assess the health of the jaguar population in Suriname. There is also an effort to identify major threats and to collectively find solutions. On sea turtle conservation much work is being done in the Guianas where WWF provides partnership and support to local government authorities to continue the conservation and monitoring efforts to stop illegal activities.
WWF-Guianas is also working on a project to advocate for the reduction of mercury in mining practices which will not only support more sustainable mining practices but also reduce the environmental impact and pollution to rivers and streams teaming with wildlife affected by this pollution/poisoning.