New Documentary Launches Campaign to Protect Kanuku Mountains

5/23/2005

Film highlights one of Guyana�s richest and most diverse natural and cultural regions

Georgetown, Guyana � The majesty and richness of one of Guyana�s most beloved yet little known natural treasures � the Kanuku Mountains � are featured in a documentary premiering today to launch an awareness campaign on environmental degradation. Called "Kanuku, Mountains of Life," the 18-minute film produced by Conservation International (CI) stresses the importance of sustainably managing such magnificent natural resources for the benefit of local communities and the entire nation.

His Excellency President Bharrat Jagdeo is the guest of honour for the premiere at the Tower Hotel in Georgetown, hosted by Maj. Gen. (retired) Joseph Singh, executive director of CI-Guyana.

The Kanukus are home to an incredible 60 percent of Guyana�s forest-based bird species and 70 percent of the country's mammals. Surrounded by the Rupununi savannahs, these enchanting lands have been cared for by Macushi and Wapishana Amerindian communities for hundreds of years. Naturalists have visited the mountains for more than 150 years, but only recently has the region�s biological wealth been valued.

"We have a duty and an obligation that, when our term is up and a new government takes over, we pass on the same patrimony in an untouched way. Untouched, not in the sense of not being utilized for the benefits of the people, but untouched in the sense it would be sustainable," President Jagdeo says in the video. "So, one way of achieving this is to ensure that we have a Protected Area System and that we can manage the utilization of these resources in a sustainable way."

Logging, mining and fires pose serious threats to the biodiversity of the Kanukus. Species including jaguars, eagles and giant anteaters are endangered. "If these resources are poorly managed, they may disappear forever," explains Eustace Alexander, a CI-Guyana scientist.

"Guyana does not yet have a Protected Area System but recognizes it has an obligation to conserve its biodiversity and preserve the integrity of its ecosystems," says Maj. Gen. Singh of CI-Guyana. "We work in partnership with the government and with the local communities. The Amerindians have been the custodians and guardians of biodiversity and of these landscapes for as long as they have been living there."

The documentary focuses on the wildlife of the Kanukus, as well as the culture of the surrounding communities and their engagement in discussing the future of their land. It shows how the 18 communities around the mountains are working together for sustainability. They have mapped the area to better understand how they use their resources and where they can farm, fish and hunt. "We look at the mountains as our Mother because there we can get almost anything we want," says Cedric Buckley, head teacher at Shulinab village.

"Kanuku, Mountains of Life" is directed by Haroldo Castro, a prize-winning Brazilian cinematographer who has produced more than 30 documentaries � including �A Dream for Guyana�s Natural Heritage� in 1999. Castro and his crew made two journeys to the region to film 17 hours of footage. "The film reflects, through the vision of people increasingly committed to the environment, that the dream of protecting the Kanukus can come true," Castro says. "Indeed, all inhabitants of the region see their mountains with respect and affection."

The story is told by Kojo Nnamdi, a Washington, DC-based Guyanese radio and television celebrity, who enthusiastically takes viewers to the Kanuku Mountains. Nnamdi, who also was the on-camera talent for "A Dream for Guyana�s Natural Heritage" six years ago, closes the program by saying, "I am not dreaming alone. My dream to protect our pristine remote places is shared today with any other people, including our government."

The documentary will be broadcast by all Guyanese television stations throughout the year as the centrepiece of the awareness campaign, which also features two posters, a screensaver, t-shirts and a photo exhibit. The effort was made possible by the support of Sony Corporation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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Photographs, video clips and interviews are available on request.

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