Guyana Conservation Initiative
In 2003, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, and the South American government of Guyana signed an agreement for a conservation initiative program which included three main aspects: wildlife surveys, support for policy and legislation and development, and environmental education at the Guyana Zoo. This arrangement was made after a cooperative agreement was signed with the Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development to act as our Zoo’s liaison in Guyana for conservation projects.
This collaboration was integrated into the design and interpretation of the award winning Range of the Jaguar exhibit that opened to record setting numbers in 2004. Many authentic artifacts made by the Amerindians of the North Rupununi and Iwokrama Forest may be found throughout the exhibit as well as stories of how they use forest resources and help Iwokrama researchers as citizen scientists.
Amerindian crafts are also available for sale in the gift shop, the proceeds of which directly benefit Amerindian communities. The Iwokrama International Centre works very closely with native people to integrate their needs and values into business development and conservation strategies for generations to come.
Some of those strategies include building a skilled work force able to guide eco-tourists into remote areas and interpret the habitat and species found there. One program established in 14 Amerindian communities and supported by Iwokrama and the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is the Wildlife Club Program.
Open to 8 to 20 year olds, Wildlife Clubs and their activities teach the skills necessary to conduct field research, organize information, interpret data and communicate the information verbally and technically. These basic skills prepare Amerindian youth for potential careers as rangers and guides for the growing tourist industry now visiting the Iwokrama Forest.
In May 2005, Zoo staff members traveled to Guyana to perform physicals on some captive jaguars that were to be imported to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. In early January 2006, Nick Kapustin, DVM, Senior Veterinarian, and Delfi Messinger, Director of Animal Programs, traveled to Guyana to bring back two female jaguars. These jaguars came to the Zoo on government loan from the Guyana government. Broader than just the loan of the jaguars, the Jacksonville Zoo was hopeful that this partnership would grow into a larger, long-term initiative building on conservation.
Click here for more information on the Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development at http://www.iwokrama.org.