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“We have something so unique. Today, South America has over 5,000 birds and there are less than 10,000 birds in the world. The South American continent holds more than half of the world’s birds and North Amazon holds 2,340 birds – that means about quarter of the birds in the entire world are located in just six countries: Guyana, Brazil, French Guiana, Venezuela, Colombia and Suriname.”- Gajendra Nauth Narine (Andy)By Desilon DanielsThey can be found in a little office located on Light Street, Alberttown. The room is lit by a single fluorescent bulb and is cramped haphazardly with furniture. Around them, the walls are plastered with detailed maps and posters of brightly coloured birds; some shelves are stacked with pamphlets and thick publications, a few feathers tucked away inside of books.One of the birds in the Bird Society’s foster programme.For some, such a surrounding could be considered sheer confusion. However, this office is a second home for many of the members of the Guyana Amazon Tropical Birds Society (GATBS). The non-governmental organisation is commonly known as the Guyana Bird Society and is filled with persons who have dedicated years of their lives to birding.Among them is Gajendra Nauth Narine, fondly known to all as Andy. He is currently the vice president of GATBS and has been with the Society since its formation in 2000.In an interview with Kaieteur News, Andy spoke about the ups and downs witnessed by the Society since its creation 15 years ago.According to him, the Society started in 2000 but was not officially certified as an NGO until 2005. He said that the entity began as a means to help at-risk youths channel their energies positively.“We started taking the kids out to look at birds and helping them to put together lists of birds around the capital city. I recognised that it started to motivate them to get off the streets and go into the garden and parks,” he said.He went on that the youths were eventually removed from the streets by the then Guyana Government to a facility on the West Bank of Demerara. Though this saw the Society losing about half of its members and visits from the youths became infrequent, the Society nonetheless grew. Currently, it has members in all of Guyana’s administrative regions. In total, there are about 126 members, but there are fewer than 10 active members who work with the Society day-to-day.For the members, birding presented the perfect opportunity to both promote tourism and educate the public. This is especially true for a country such as Guyana.According to Andy, “we are sitting in an important birding destination.”Andy Narine (left) and GATBS Acting President Terry Plummer with two of the birds.He continued, “We have something so unique. Today, South America has over 5,Cheap Jerseys Free Shipping,000 birds and there are less than 10,000 birds in the world. The South American continent holds more than half of the world’s birds and North Amazon holds 2,340 birds – that means about quarter of the birds in the entire world are located in just six countries: Guyana, Brazil, French Guiana, Venezuela, Colombia and Suriname.”He pointed out that this information is not commonly known – something that the Society is working on changing.One of its primary goals is to educate the public. He explained, “Our interest is Guyana; if we don’t help the people, the people won’t help the habitat, the habitat won’t protect the birds and we want to keep protecting our birds.”He said that the Society long recognised the importance of providing up-to-date and factual information.“We were created to house and educate Guyanese throughout our 83,000 square miles,” Andy emphasised. “We keep that information to help support the education sector and we are working along with the tourism sector for a number of years,” he said.Currently, the Society has an impressive database on local birds, with over 900 documented species.“Our society is basically built to give information to people who need it. For instance, we found in the last seven or eight years, most of the Biology students and Zoology students utilised our data because of its accessibility,” Narine said.He further stressed that Guyana is not living up to its birding potential and is not making full use of the niche market.“It’s not only about conservation on the local scene, but we have to recognise that we have to benefit economically through our conservation interests by having a product to support eco-tourism,” he said.Nonetheless, the Society continues with its efforts and has significantly contributed to birding tourism in Guyana.Andy explained that the Society works with a number of international organisations to help track not only Guyana’s resident birds, but also its migrant birds that travel seasonally.The Society has also worked along with international agencies to publish documents on birds in Guyana and the importance of conservation. He added that it all links back to tourism.“Due to birds, you get to see all 83,000 square miles of Guyana and conservation is a very important thing for Guyana. We are part of the lungs of the world,” he emphasised. He continued, “Everyone is going to benefit from tourism in Guyana; from the farmers, to the transportation providers, even to the craftspeople.”MANIPULATIONSHowever, things have been difficult for the organisation, Andy said. He explained that the majority of the difficulties come from severe underfunding.According to Andy, the Society receives almost no outside funding; much of the activities are funded by the dedicated members of GATBS.“Most of the funding that has come to Guyana in the last five years, none has been trickling down to us.” Rather, he said, the funding went to the former administration’s Ministry of Tourism.He explained that in one case the Society would have approached a German donor for funding. However, he said,World Baseball Classic Jerseys Outlet, when the donor became interested and came to Guyana to conduct a workshop,J.R. Smith Jersey, the Society was deliberately left out by other local bodies, including the Tourism Ministry.“At the end of the day, we’re hearing that there are billions of dollars received and spent on birding conservation, but there’s nothing to show that.”He further said, “For a number of years the Society has been manipulated because of our expertise in bringing in the information in the area, and the research information we gave to programmes. People would hire us to participate in assessments, and normally we’re paid a fee to put together data on bird population in specific communities.” He said the Society’s information would have been used by tourism organisations which used the data provided to market themselves.Within the last 15 years, this was done countless times, he said. However, he said,Wholesale Jerseys China, though the Society was used oftentimes, it was not paid for its work.“We were finding that most of the bodies we were working with manipulated the Society by using us to conduct surveys, but not paying us or completely paying us off for what we did,” he said.He said too that the society partnered with Birdlife International in 2007 to highlight more than a dozen bird areas across Guyana. In these areas, the Society identified important bird areas (IBAs) where endangered birds can be found.However, while this work would have required extensive research and hours dedicated to the task, Narine said that others would “rip off” the society’s work to receive international funding.“IBA is a donor language; donor companies would usually fund organisations that are doing work with species that are critical. So,NFL Jerseys Cheap, people were using our Important Bird Areas as a way to get access to donors and funding,” Narine said.He continued, “We were expecting our ups and downs, but we didn’t expect it from the previous Government so rashly and so blatantly.”Some of the works that the Society would have reportedly contributed to, but would have received no payment for, include the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project – where the society went into the area and conducted surveys on its bird population – and the Extension of the Kaieteur National Park in 2011.He explained too that visitors from the Norwegian Government, Birdlife International and World Bank, would visit the office and question them on their work and whether they receive funding for their published information. “When we tell them that we didn’t even know about some of the publications and that we’re not funded, they feel sad for us, because we’ve been doing a lot of the work for the past 15 years and nobody’s paying attention to this society.”SHEER LOVEHowever,Jerseys NFL Wholesale, though the Society undergoes much tribulation, Andy said its members refuse to give up. Each year, the Society embarks upon special projects. One of its ongoing projects is the Foster Bird Programme. This programme began in 2005 and saw the Society taking in injured birds from the public and returning the creatures to full health. For months on end – and sometimes years – the Society’s members take care of the birds out of the money from their own pockets.The members would also travel across the regions to collect injured birds or even teach distant persons to help the birds recuperate. The birds would later be released or, if they are too injured, they are given to pet lovers or handed over to the Guyana Zoo.The Society also removes birds living around the airport and transports them to safer locations.Of course, much more can be done, Andy said. However, poor funding is stymieing its education efforts. According to Andy, the Society has compiled a publication of vital information on birding in Guyana. However, the document is yet to be published due to limited finances. Andy shared that the Society is hoping to receive enough support from the Government of Guyana and the private sector to see the document become a reality.“We’re just here collecting data and year after year we go out combing the country for more information and that’s not easy. It’s very expensive, but we love our jobs,” he said. “The best way we can help people across Guyana is by having our publication published to help bring more tourists to Guyana, and to get our own people participating in activities.”Meanwhile, Andy stressed that birding spans across ages and socioeconomic tiers – from the young to the old, from farmers to big businesspersons – and learning more about birds can provide a unique and wonderful learning experience for all. He particularly believes that November – Tourism Month – should be fully utilised.When asked why they continue to do what they do, Andy simply replied, “Because we love it.” He continued, “I recognise the importance of having this education in Guyana and I’ve seen the difference it’s made in Guyana over the past 15 years. So, the reason why I’m doing this is because I love it and we promised people in Guyana that great things are going to happen and I want us to live up to that promise.”
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