Several features distinguish Guyana’s forests from other regions of the world. A primary distinction is that 80 percent of the country is forested and 75 percent of this remains relatively intact. This is one of the highest percentages of pristine tropical habitat for any country.
Inherently rich in natural resources, Guyana is traditionally dependent upon extraction industries like logging and mining. The cash economy within the indigenous communities is not well developed, and employment opportunities are limited and poverty is widespread. Consequently, the residents are inclined to trade in wildlife and fish to supplement their income. Guyana’s national borders with neighboring countries are open and unmonitored. This allows easy access by other nationals into the country to illegally extract and/or trade in natural resources.
To mitigate these threats and to protect the country’s invaluable biodiversity, the government of Guyana has declared its commitment to the development of national protected areas. To date, five areas have been identified for protection, one of which is in the Southern Region where the Konashen Indigenous District is located. As Guyana develops its system of protected areas, Conservation International (CI) has been identified by the government as the lead agency in the process.
Other organizations including the World Wildlife Fund, the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society and Flora and Fauna International are also participating in the process of developing protected areas in other priority sites. The Iwokrama Centre and the Kaieteur National Park Board have the responsibility for developing and overseeing the implementation of management plans for the Iwokrama Forest and the Kaieteur National Park respectively.
The Guayana Shield Region
The Guayana Shield Region of northern South America (approx. 8°N, 72°W) was formed during the Precambrian era and is one of the most ancient landscapes in the world. The terms Guiana and Guayana are two universally accepted variants of an Amerindian word interpreted to mean "land of plenty water."
The Guayana Shield is the area bounded by the Amazon River to the south, the Japura-Caqueta River to the southwest, the Sierra de Chiribiquere to the west, the Orinoco and Guaviare rivers to the northwest and north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. This area covers 2.5 million square kilometers of mountains, pristine forests, wetlands and savannahs, and is comprised of parts of Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia and all of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. The Guayana Shield occupies approximately 13 percent of the entire South American continent.
Recognized as one of the world’s largest remaining areas of tropical wilderness, the Guayana Shield Region is also home to a wide variety of unique ecosystems, harbors a large number of endemic fauna and flora and supports a high level of cultural diversity with more than 100 indigenous ethnic groups.