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–    Dr. Graham Watkins is a ‘Special Person’  “Over the coming years, it will be important to effectively marry development and conservation interests in the Rupununi to ensure culturally, socially and ecologically sustainable development that builds on the unique natural and social capital of the area.”He puts it in the same league as the Galapagos, Serengeti and Ngorongoro, so it’s easy to see why the Rupununi is Guyana-born British biologist Dr Graham Watkins’ favourite place.Snuggling a giant otter and allowing it to “nibble” him is a good indication of his love affair with the Rupununi, for which he has just completed the book “Rupununi: Rediscovering a Lost World.”  It was first released in October 2010 by Earth in Focus Editions, the non-profit publishing arm of the International League of Conservation Photographers.Dr. Graham WatkinsOf the Rupununi, it’s the North – stretching from the Siparuni Rover to the Kanuku Mountains and from the Essequibo River to the Brazilian Border – that Dr. Watkins finds his fascination. He sees it as an extraordinary natural area that has been hidden from the public eye for too long.The area was well known in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it received visits from well-known explorers David Attenborough,Authentic China Jerseys, Gerald Durrell, Evelyn Waugh and Charles Waterton.On this latest book,NFL Jerseys Outlet, Watkins collaborated with Pete Oxford and Reneé Bish. Oxford, a British biologist, is an internationally renowned, award-winning nature photographer. Bish is a naturalist, conservationist, designer, sculptor, nurse and photographic partner.In getting the book out, Watkins believes he has given back to a place that has been very important for his own development and learning.Dr. Watkins has spent most of his life working in Guyana and Ecuador. He was the Executive Director of the Charles Darwin Foundation in Galapagos from 2005 to 2009 and prior to this, during 2003 and 2004, he was the Director General of the Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development in Guyana.His professional life includes more than 20 years of experience in ecological research, collaborative wildlife and fisheries management, and sustainable enterprise development in aquaculture, fisheries and tourism.Dr Watkins has worked in Guyana for over ten years to ensure the conservation of the North Rupununi Wetlands,NFL Jerseys From China, and was again home recently to give his input in the creation of a Centre for Biodiversity Research at the University of Guyana.He holds a degree in Zoology from St. Catherine’s College,Cheap Soccer Jerseys For Sale, Oxford, in the UK and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Pennsylvania, USA, and has published more than 30 popular and technical articles and books.Watkins’ love of nature actually developed in Trinidad and Tobago – the homeland of his mother. He left Guyana at age three,Cheap NFL Jerseys China, and the place called home would be next to a lake full of Spectacled Caimans. And butterflies were “everywhere” too.Growing up then, there were plenty opportunities to head out to the middle of the lake to peep at nesting iguanas, but a lake full of caimans added exhilaration to trip.Over the past 20 years, Dr Watkins’ work has focused on demonstrating how the rainforest could be used in a sustainable way.While at Iwokrama, his task included documenting the wildlife in the one-million hectare forest, and so it is little wonder that his favourite pursuit in the Rupununi is the road running through the Iwokrama Forest. He wishes though that there were fewer minibuses traversing the road.The management plan he developed for the Iwokrama Forest is held up as the only management plan for any of the protected areas in Guyana.Caiman catching in the Rupununi (Graham Watkins photo)Watkins first went to the Rupununi when he started working with Iwokrama in 1996. His fascination with the area developed not only after observing the mix of extraordinary wildlife, but also how much the local Amerindian people understood the area they called home. After all, it is the Amerindians who have been the custodians of their land, and have kept in intact.As a result, while in Guyana, Watkins worked to promote what some have called “citizen science,” sapping the wisdom of the Rupununi’s inhabitants and combining it with scientific thinking to craft the way forward in protecting the forests and what’s in them.That has led to the formation of several wildlife clubs, providing a platform for young Amerindians to do their own research and debate issues of survival and conservation.He began working with the Iwokrama International Centre in 1996 through a contract between the Iwokrama Project and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and his contract was in fact to survey the vertebrate fauna of the Iwokrama Forest and to help build capacity among local communities at the University of Guyana.”In my early days in the Rupununi, the diversity of fish and bats fascinated me – I was able to see species normally hidden away from people under water or in the night skies,” he said in an interview with a birding project in Guyana.He began working for the Charles Darwin Foundation in February 2005, and stayed there until December 2008. As Executive Director of the Foundation, he was responsible for strategic and day-to-day management of the Foundation. This included developing and implementing strategic, business, and operational plans. In particular, he worked to improve relationships with local and national partners and to make the research work of the Foundation increasingly relevant to managing the extraordinary Galapagos National Park and Galapagos Marine Reserve.He now works with the Inter-American Development Bank, but he keeps coming back to Guyana – to the Rupununi, and hence the new book.Within the North Rupununi, Watkins zooms in on the Takutu Basin, a geologically old rift valley that lies between the Kanuku Mountains and the Pakaraima Mountains.He places the Rupununi as also being on a par with the Pantanal as one of the better locations in the world to see exotic animals.He has spoken on why he likes the area – its diverse species, especially when it comes to bats and fishes, and of course, the giants – Arapaima, Giant Otter, Black Caiman, Anaconda, Jaguar, Giant Anteater, Tapir, Harpy Eagle, Giant Water Lily, King Vulture, Toco Toucan, and Jabiru Stork. It is also the home of the Makushi people – who are thought to have inhabited the area for about 7,000 years now.The Rupununi remains largely unexplored, but Watkins sums up its importance as the high species richness of the area (he said the Rupununi may be one of the most species-rich areas in the world for fish) and that the area maintains complete ecosystems with their large predators, and herbivores such as Capybaras and Tapirs.Over 400 species of fish, over 600 species of birds, and over 190 species of mammals found in the Rupununi have been documented.Snuggling with a giant otter“There are fewer and fewer well-conserved, high-diversity areas in the world, placing the Rupununi in a very august group of locations including Serengeti National Park, Manu National Park, and Yasuni National Park,” he is quoted as saying.The Rupununi includes over 750 depression and oxbow lakes and ponds. There are also mountain streams,Authentic MLB Jerseys Online, gallery forests, forest islands, seasonally flooded savannah, black water flooded forest and white water flooded forest all set in a complex geology.Watkins hopes that the new book will be able to help people see and understand why the Rupununi is so very special.But he is wary of how plans to develop the Georgetown-Lethem road with the completion of the Takutu Bridge could rapidly change the highly sensitive savannah, forest, and wetland ecosystems of the Rupununi.“Over the coming years, it will be important to effectively marry development and conservation interests in the Rupununi to ensure culturally, socially and ecologically sustainable development that builds on the unique natural and social capital of the area,” he emphasises.His website – www.rupununi.org – has been dedicated to helping people work together for such a Rupununi.The book carries a strong message that the Rupununi should not end up the same way as so many other of the world’s special places.Watkins thinks the Rupununi will become increasingly important for tourism and conservation, and from a research perspective, offers opportunities to work in a healthy ecosystem on keystone species. He also believes that the Rupununi can be important in helping us understand how complex ecosystems work and how they respond to climate change.
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