Major impact on wildlife feared after huge Rupununi wildfire

A section of the bush island that was destroyed by the wildfire. (Photo Courtesy of Waikin Ranch)

Acres of vegetation, which served as a habitat for wildlife, were destroyed by a wildfire which started on Tuesday last in close proximity to the Waikin Ranch outside Lethem, Region Nine.

The ferocious fire, which lasted three days, was finally doused on Friday after members of the ranch managed to bring it under control.

During the fire, Dante Pires, Assistant Manager at the ranch said they battled heavy winds to put out the flames. He said that while they were able to put out the fire, wildlife had been killed in the inferno. He labelled the ordeal a blow to conservation efforts.

He said that the fire is believed to have spread throughout the acres of land because of the dry spell currently being experienced in the Rupununi.

A tortoise that was caught in the wildfire at Waikin Ranch. (Photo Courtesy of Waikin Ranch)

“Persons have the tendency to set fires to chase the animals when they are hunting, so we suspect this is a case of that. We have been talking to residents and asking them to desist from setting fire but some persons still do it,” he lamented.

In a Facebook post, operators of the ranch, which covers almost 33,000 acres, said the fire, “destroyed the bush island and savannah habitat many wildlife call home and use as their sanctuary.”

It was noted that the “long term damage of life and environment are at a high cost to conservation efforts, to livelihood and most of all to the environment we rely on.”

The management of the ranch said that they were saddened that the perpetrators of this act feel no responsibility. “This act was illegally done for selfish wicked reasons only and does much damage to an already barren land…” they said.

Pires told Stabroek News that while snakes, armadillos, and turtles were burnt and injured in the fire, anteaters and spider moneys managed to flee the area and sought refuge on high ground.

In a subsequent Facebook post, the ranch operators said that they are looking to extend their wildlife work by creating a larger refuge environment.

With the rainy season approaching, the ranch operators announced they were accepting donations of trees such as mango, coconut, cashew and other vegetation to plant.

Earlier this month, Chairman of Region Nine Brian Allicock said wildfires continue to pose a threat to families and wildlife.

“It is a serious issue here in the region but we have been talking to villagers to desist from lighting fires and not monitor it. We have to be very careful because of the weather condition we are having,” Allicock had said.

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