Iwokrama: a place of refuge

The desire to ‘walk the walk’ inspired Desmond Hoyte, then president of Guyana, to present his fellow Commonwealth leaders with a unique opportunity to help conserve the world’s tropical rainforests. Attending the 1989 Commonwealth Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Hoyte intervened in the environmental debate to offer the Commonwealth over one million acres of pristine rainforest in Caribbean South America: the Iwokrama Forest.

The plan was to set up an experimental project, in partnership with the Commonwealth, “to study the utilisation of the forest on a sustainable basis and the conservation of the species”. Today, the forest is managed by the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown. Its patron is the Prince of Wales and its programmes are funded internationally. Whether it is ecotourism, forestry, scientific research or training, Iwokrama’s watchword is ‘sustainability’.

The Iwokrama rainforest is home to the Makushi people and is a haven of biological diversity, with over 1,125 species of plants, 420 breeds of fish, 127 varieties of mammals and 114 types of amphibians and reptiles. In the forests and tributaries of the Essequibo River, there are jaguars, giant otters, river turtles, snakes, caimans, eagles and macaws.


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