Guyana’s Conflicting Interests

My travels to Guyana are always emotionally charged, usually full of equally inspiring and heartbreaking experiences.

In the interior, surrounded by the beauty and warmth of both the forests and the native people, your mind effortlessly slips into a state of rest. You can walk barefoot on the villages’ dirt roads, past the grazing cows and humble, yet colorful houses and feel yourself connect with the earth. An earth that is still healthy and thriving. An earth free from the stressors of a first world country; no interstates, no power lines, no high rises, no rush hour. An earth with a heartbeat that pulses and pumps life into the millions of organisms working to maintain an equilibrium. Homeostasis. In the interior, people believe the intrinsic value of their animal counterparts far exceeds any dollar amount placed on them.

On the periphery of the interiors’ havens, along the coastlines and borders with neighboring countries, the effects of human lust and greed are evident. Guerrilla miners strip the earth with chemicals that create irreversible damage to the forests and rivers. Logging operations, hydrocarbon exploration and illegal extraction of plants and animals are acts of degradation growing in intensity and frequency. In the cities, people view animals as disposable sources of income and nothing more than a piece of property.

The juxtaposition of these harshly conflicting ideologies has created a sense of urgency within the Guyanese government and the indigenous communities to secure the remaining areas of untouched land and impose tighter regulations on the wildlife trade. 80% of Guyana’s forests remain in pristine condition and with the dedication and support of people who aren’t afraid to join together to fight the good fight, it’s possible
to keep it this way.

Project “Save the Giants” is gaining momentum in the fight for Guyana’s wildlife. Please follow our blog and join us in the journey:

“Save the Giants” meets the President

What a phenomenal evening this was!  Thank you to the IUCN SSC Otter Specialist Group for highlighting this story.

An excerpt from the IUCN Otter Specialist Group’s Facebook post:


The President of Guyana, David A. Granger, left, with Christina Ward and Kenneth Butler during the fifth anniversary celebrations of the Protected Areas Commission in #Guyana.

Christina and Kenneth are both working hard in their new mission to save native Guyana fauna, with particular focus on their populations of Giant Otters that are in need of immediate conservative action.

Here is Christina‘s report of the day:

“My conservation cup overfloweth! After spending a most spectacular day with Ali Striggow, sight seeing and checking in on a giant otter at the Guyana Zoo, I went to a ceremony to celebrate the Protected Areas Commission’s 5th year anniversary!

What an amazing feeling it was to sit amongst Guyana’s best and brightest in the field of conservation, community development and sustainable land management. And you can imagine my enthusiasm when I discovered that the key speaker for the evening was THE PRESIDENT OF GUYANA!!!!!!!

President David A. Granger – what an inspiring man. His dedication to the land and the people of Guyana shines through in his words. He is dedicated to transforming Guyana into a true green state. I felt a twinge of shame when he noted that he was among the first to sign the Paris Agreement. Sigh.

The best part of the night was when we got the chance to meet the president. In the brief moment we had to exchange words, I managed to blurt out as many details about “Save the Giants” as I possibly could. He took my card, shook our hands and welcomed us onboard! Heres to giant leaps forward in the efforts to SAVE THE GIANTS!!”

Best of luck, Save the Giants!

Read more about the event here:

#otter #otters #giantotters #savethegiants #guyana#southamerica

Saving the Giants – Our Vision and Mission

Guyana’s rain forests, savannas and sinuous rivers are home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna and host to species that are found nowhere else in the world.  The culture and warmness of Guyana’s native people is unparalleled, just as the natural resources they depend on.  “Save the Giants” is a community-driven initiative, that aims to train and empower the people of Guyana to manage their ecosystems and protect the charismatic “giants” that bring these havens to life.

Hello! My name is Christina Ward – I am an artist and conservationist dedicated to preserving the wildlife of Guyana and enriching the lives of the country’s native people. In collaboration with colleagues from Surama Eco-Village, Creature Conserve, a registered 501c3 and my personal business: Colors for Conservation, we are launching the “Save the Giants” conservation initiative. “Save the Giants” will expand upon the giant otter surveys currently being conducted by local Makushi surveyors, Kenneth Butler (Surama) and Oswin Ambrose (Massara), along the Rupununi River in Region 9 of the Guyanese interior.  Please visit our “Notes From the Field” pages for more information on the current field surveys.

The focal species for the “Save the Giants” project will be the iconic giant otter; an endangered species whose wild population numbers are merely speculation, due to insufficient data collection. Save the Giants will employ and train indigenous villagers to conduct proper giant otter population surveys and collect fecal samples, which will be used for genetic testing.  We will be partnering with the Molecular Ecology Department of Durham University in England to complete the genetic analysis.

As giants are the focal species for data collection, they will also serve as an umbrella species for their wild “giant” counterparts.  In addition to collecting data on the otters, the surveyors will collect supplemental data on the surrounding environment and patrol for signs of illegal activity, pertaining to illegal extraction, fishing and poaching.  Save the Giants is partnering with Panthera Guyana to develop ways for surveyors to maximize their data collection time on the river and in the field.

As the project evolves and the trained otter surveyors become familiarized with giant otter behavior, opportunities to establish sustainable “otter watch” eco-tours will be abundant.  Currently, in country, there are no tour companies who offer this type of encounter. Giant otters, with their playful and communal nature are always a delight to view in the wild, but their aversion to humans must be respected and proper guidelines must be in place when conducting an otter watch tour.  Standards for appropriate giant otter eco-tourism ventures have been published by Jessica Groenendjik; communications director with San Diego Zoo Global, Peru. Jessica’s extensive field research on giant otters allowed for the creation of a standardized data collection methodology, which will be used during our otter surveys.

OUR VISION: That giant otters are protected and their populations stable throughout their range in South America by 2025.

OUR MISSION: To bring artists, scientists, members of local communities, and all who love giant otters together to celebrate, study, and protect them.