Our efforts to protect parrots in captivity in the U.S. were enhanced by the opportunity to help protect the freedom of those that remain in the wild in Guyana. A single, private donation to Foster Parrots, Ltd. in 2004 funded the construction of Maipaima Eco-Lodge, deep in the forest of Nappi Village at the foot of the Kanuku Mountains in Southern Guyana.
Conservation efforts cannot be successful without the involvement of indigenous people and unless we embrace the traditional culture of the people whose heritage is tied to the forests, the rivers and the animals. Eco-tourism empowers Amerindian villages in Guyana to take control of their economic destiny and to participate in shaping the ecologic future of their country.
In Guyana, trapping wildlife for international pet and zoo markets was once one of the few economic opportunities available to indigenous people. Now eco-tourism provides tremendous incentive to protect native wildlife and preserve the stunning natural habitat of Guyana. Taking advantage of training programs offered at the Iwokrama Centre for Rain Forest Conservation, Amerindians are becoming forest guides, researchers and expert birders. Training in guest services is offered at Rockview in the village of Annai, and workers are finding employment opportunities as porters, in transportation and in cultural demonstrations and performances that transport us all to a simpler, more beautiful life.
Eco-tourism also provides a platform for the incredible, age-old art of the Amerindian people. The Balata art found in Guyana is surpassed by none. George Tancredo of Nappi is the foremost Balata artist in the country and now works to teach this craft to a new generation of apprentice balata artists. The Women’s Sewing Club of Rewa and The Rupununi Weavers group produce stunning textiles, and the Parishara Carvers turn sacred Tiger Wood into pure magic.
With 80% of its natural forests and savannah lands untouched and largely unexplored, Guyana represents one of the last pristine and intact eco-systems on earth. It is a land of Giants. This is the home of the Jaguar, the Giant Anteater, the Giant Armadillo, and the Giant Otter. The waterways in Guyana are home to the Black Caiman and the largest scaled fish on earth, the Arapaima. Nine species of primates are native to Guyana, including spider monkeys, capuchins, and Howlers whose haunting calls resonate through the forests deep in the night. The high pitched cries of Toucan and Toucanets sound like lost puppies in the woods. And two of the world’s largest eagle species, the Harpy Eagle and the Crested Eagle, can both be found in Guyana…
And then, of course, there are the parrots.
Of 335 species of parrots in the world, 28 species are native to Guyana. Scarlet Macaws, Green Winged Macaws and Blue and Golds fly here. Mealy Amazons, Orange Winged Amazons and Yellow Crowned Amazons call to one another from tree to tree. Hawk Headed or “Red Fan” parrots can be spied in the jungle…. The Pakaraima Mountains in Guyana are the last stronghold for the Sun Conure in all of South America.
Foster Parrots, Ltd. is a very small non-profit organization whose mission in Guyana is to protect wild parrots and all wildlife by facilitating and supporting village based eco-tourism efforts. In an attempt to help inspire the next generation of Conservationists, Foster Parrots also supports nature-based education in Amerindian village schools and the activities of Junior Wildlife Clubs.