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GUYANA – Part 4: Land of the Giants

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Dec 27, 2008 | by Kevin Loughlin

Guyana is a place of giants and of the ever so tiny. From the giant-sized Kaieteur Falls to the Giant River Otters who live in its waters. We came to Karanambu Ranch in central Guyana to find the Giant Anteater, which feeds on termites and ants in the surrounding savanna.

The Giant Anteater is an early riser — it feeds while the day is still cool. (Of course “cool” is relative, I don’t think it is ever truly cool in Guyana!) We were up before first light for fruit and coffee and were ready to depart in our beat up Land Rovers shortly after. One of our guides sat on the roof of the vehicle with less rust for a better vantage point as we bounced along the rocky track.

Suddenly the Rover with the lookout peeled off the worn trail and rumbled across the savanna as our Rover… with no windscreen to block the dust, followed. The Giant Anteater had been spotted! We soon came to a gritty stop and our local Guyana guides hopped out and ran to corral our quarry. We were horrified! We had no idea that this was the plan.
The Giant Anteater was running toward us then away, then toward us again as our guides pursued. Its tiny mouth was open as it huffed, not used to being chased. When we realized they were going to continue even though the animal was stressed, we called to our guides to stop. They seemed surprised as we never got close to the beast. We thanked them for finding the anteater and tried to explain to them why chasing it was a bad thing. However, we realized it was a discussion for later in the day as there was a bit too much confusion at that moment. The next hour was full of birding and plant identification before we boarded our Land Rovers to head back for breakfast.

Later in the day we found the time to talk with our local guides and the trip organizers about the way the Giant Anteater was treated so that we, the tourists, could see it. We hope our words were not taken lightly. There are many people who would not be the least bit concerned for the animal’s fear and stress. I have seen well known nature photographers request such antics so that they could get their shot. As if they owned the wildlife and could therefor do as they wish. I have seen birders acting this way, too — with no regard for their quarry, just doing what they need in order to get a good view.
On our tours we follow a code of ethics we wish other companies would adopt. We make every effort to see our target species using skill and determination, but we also make every effort to not stress our prey in any way while doing so.
We’ll talk more on the subject of stress in the future… but watch for another Guyana report to come soon!

1 Comment

  1. Julie Zickefoose on December 30, 2008 at 8:46 AM

    Thank you for making our concerns known here, Kevin. I will be doing the same on my blog. It’s hard to criticize guides who are doing what they think will give you the best view, and harder still to convey why that is such a bad idea without appearing ungrateful. But running down a threatened and vanishing animal is never justified. What do we know of giant anteater metabolism and stress response? Essentially nothing. Ergo, we have no business stressing it.

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