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By Akola Thompson -Guyana has an incredibly diverse ecosystem with more than 225 species of mammals, 470 species of freshwater fish, 800+ species of birds, and 325 species of amphibians and reptiles.
Amongst its claim to fame, are the large animals that have set Guyana apart and have earned it the nickname “Land of the Giants.”
Curious about what some of these giants are? We’ve compiled a list for you.
The Jaguar is one of the largest cat species, with the most powerful bite. The name Jaguar, is derived from the Native American word Yaguar, which can be translated as “he who kills with one leap.” Pretty impressive, right? As one of Guyana’s official national animals, jaguars are highly respected. However, they are in danger of extinction given regular killings, and hunting for sport. It is important to ensure their protection as they play an important role in helping to regulate and maintain a healthy ecosystem.
Known as the Pirarucu in Brazil, and the Paiche in Peru, the Arapaima is the largest freshwater fish with scales in the world. Arapaimas are able to live in water that is oxygen-poor given its capacity to breathe air through a primitive lung. They can reach ten feet in length and can even weigh more than four hundred pounds. Once under threat of extinction, the Arapaima were identified as a species requiring protection, and are currently monitored in communities such as Rewa. This conservation initiative has contributed towards the restoration of over four thousand Arapaima in the community. Healthy populations are usually found in the Rupununi, Essequibo and Rewa rivers.
Also known as the “flying wolf” given its large size and powerful hunting capacity, the Harpy Eagle is one of the world’s largest eagles and is considered the most powerful raptor in the rainforest. This should come as no surprise as their huge talons can lift almost as much as their own body weight, which often ranges between fifteen to twenty pounds. Harpy Eagles can often be found soaring above Guyana’s rainforests such as Iwokrama and the canopies of the Kanuku Mountains. If you’re hoping to spot this giant, the Iwokrama River Lodge, Atta Rainforest Lodge, are often great places to spot them.
If you’re roaming in the Rupununi Savannahs or Iwokrama Forest, chances are that you’ll spot the Giant Anteater if you have a keen eye. Reaching almost seven feet in length, these Anteaters can eat as much as thirty thousand ants and termites per day with their long tongues. Highly reliant on its sense of smell, the Giant Anteater is able to detect ant mounds with its nose, which is forty times more powerful than that of humans.
Giant River Otter
With a daily diet of between six to nine pounds of fish, this giant can grow up to six feet in length and weigh a whooping seventy-five pounds. Imagine that! It is no wonder that this river otter is the world’s largest member of the Mestlelid family, which refers to species such as otters, weasels and ferrets. These river otters were first documented at the Karanambu Lodge, North Rupununi 1988. Today, these semi-aquatic Giant River Otters can often be spotted lounging along the Rupununi and Rewa rivers. An interesting fact about these giants is that they have a white or beige patch that extends from their jawline to their chest, which is unique to each Otter and as such, can be used to identify individuals.
Black Caiman (Photo: Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development/facebook)
For many years, the Black Caiman remained an endangered species due to overhunting of them for their meat and for sale on the black market. Due to conservation efforts by various Indigenous communities such as Yupukari, their population has been steadily returning to a healthy number. The carnivorous Black Caiman remains the largest member of the alligatoridae family.
Contributing towards the allure of the land of the giants are also the Giant Armadillo, Giant Rodents or what are known as Capybaras, and the giant Victoria Amazonica. The Giant Armadillo is the largest of its species, and has a body covered in bony plates. Much like the Giant Anteater, they have a long sticky tongue and long claws which they use to find food and gather food. The semi-aquatic Capybaracan is the largest rodent in the world, and can often grow to more than one hundred pounds.
While it is not an animal, the noteworthy Victoria Amazonica or what is most commonly known as Guyana’s national flower, the Victoria Regia Lily must be mentioned. The leaves can extend up to three metres in diameter, making it strong enough to even withstand the weight of an infant, truly strong! (Caribbean Loop)