20 February 2020, Rupununi river, Guyana - Leon Baird, 32, a villager who made his first river trip at the age of 10, uses his bow near the Rupununi river. Baird works as a guide and boat pilot but also utilizes the river and forest of the Rupununi for sustenance. Members of the Sustainable Wildlife Management Program, SWM, went on a Rupununi River expedition with partners, the South Rupununi Conservation Society.
This trip focused on fishing, bow-fishing and local hunting and lifestyles. It also took in the condition of the river and the side creeks employed by locals for food and shelter and occasional gold mining prospecting. In the Rupununi region, on Amerindian land, everything is ruled by the village and they control hunting and fishing. In the protected areas, the villages and government partner on these things. The Rupununi Region is located in the southwest of Guyana. It consists mostly of large tracts of primary forest, with about 20% of its land area covered by natural Neotropical savanna and seasonally flooded wetlands. The region has approximately 24, 000 inhabitants, including indigenous groups that rely on subsistence hunting, fishing and farming. During recent years, fish populations have declined, and similar trends are being observed for terrestrial wildlife. Studies indicate that hunting-dependent livelihoods are sustainable within indigenous lands. Scenarios highlight the probability of future disruption due to infrastructure development, competition with other more lucrative land uses, climate change, and cultural transformation. While conservation efforts are evolving in the Rupununi, there is a need to foster long-term sustainable management practices. In addition, there is a need to share lessons learnt that may be valuable in other Caribbean and Amazonian countries. The SWM Guyana project is building upon existing strategies, visions and development plans at the local and national levels. The project will demonstrate the potential for sustainable use to contribute to biodiversity conservation and preservation of the rights of local communities, both in terms of food security and livelihoods. The Guyana Wildlife Conservation and Management Commission is implementing the SWM Project in coordination with CIFOR. The focus to date has been on building strong working relationship with local communities, developing and implementing a revised fisheries management plan, environmental education, wildlife surveys using camera trapping, eco-tourism activities, wildlife road-kill assessment and livestock development as a source of alternative protein to wild meat.