ENVIRONMENT: Time for Laws to Protect the Giant Ant Hills in the Rupununi- by Francis Quamina Farrier

Rupununi Ant Hill

This is a return to an issue which was addressed some years ago; the legal protection of those iconic giant ant hills in the Central Rupununi, Region 9. With the on-going development of the Guyana/Brazil border town of Lethem, including neighbouring St. Ignatius, Campbelltown and other surrounding areas where many of the ant hills are located, some nature-lovers are of the view that legal protection of those giant ant hills has become necessary..

Many feel that their future is in jeopardy. The recent issue with those trees which line the Mabaruma Public Road in Region 1, is a very similar example. It shows that Guyanese are becoming more environmentally conscious and would make their objections known, whenever aspects of the environment are endangered. In this article, I pre-empt any reckless act by anyone who may have little or no interest in the future of those Giant Ant Hills.

Click to enlarge

It has already been established that they are tourist attractions and as such, play an important role in Guyana’s Tourism Industry. Some folks even feel that they embellish the landscape. A tourist looking out from their hotel balcony or room, and seeing those tall cone shaped images all across the landscape, gets the feeling of awe – of knowing that little insects were working hard many centuries ago, decorating the landscape and making the environment so much more attractive.

With the recent announcement that the trees which line the Public Road at Mabaruma in Region 1, were to be cut down, voices of residents and many others beyond, were immediately raised in objection and protest. That resulted in an instant halt to the plan to cut down those iconic trees. Those trees have been saved due to the loud out-cry by patriotic citizens who felt that it was a bad idea. It was a reminder that other trees such as the Mangrove are protected by law. It shows that many people are cognizant of how important trees are in our “Green Land of Guyana.” Any unlawful cutting down of the Mangrove, can result in a huge fine and imprisonment for the person, if found guilty in a court of law. Those mangrove trees line many miles of coastland beaches and river banks of the country, help to protect us from the encroaching waves of the Atlantic, and no damage or destruction to them is permitted. There are large sign boards placed in some strategic locations across the coastlands, which have a message which state in part, “The Mangrove protect us, we must protect them.”
Regards the giant ant hills in the Rupununi, Region 9, I first saw these iconic ‘structures’ on my first visit to the Guyana/Brazil border town Lethem many years ago. I have visited that area of our Beautiful Guyana many times and have always been in awe of those Giant Ant Hills which were constructed centuries ago by humble, little, hard-working ants. I use the word “constructed” because those ant hills were actually constructed by those little ants.
These Giant Ant Hills have been regarded as tourist attractions for a very long time, albeit, not officially as far as I know. While in the area during a devastating flood some years ago, I observed that not a single one of those Ant Hills was in the flood water. It seems that the ants had a keen knowledge of the topography of the land and built their “hills” only on the high ground. While the flood water inundated many of the farms, dwelling houses and business places, I noted that not a single ant hill was in the water. Amazing!  While on visits to Ghana in West Africa, I also saw many of the ant hills in the hinterland areas of the country; but they are not as tall as those in Guyana.
Regarding the future of those Giant Ant Hills in Region 9, it is felt that laws to protect those iconic gems of nature is now timely. Lethem is expanding and it should not be at the expense of those Giant Ant Hills which are rather unique and must be protected for the benefit not only for the present Guyanese and tourists, but also for future generations of Guyanese.

Francis Quamina Farrier with one of the Giant Ant Hills in the Central Rupununi, Region 9, Guyana.

Francis Quamina Farrier with one of the (not so) Giant Ant Hills at Techiman, Central Ghana, West Africa.

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