The Rupununi region of Guyana is a mix of lowland savannas and tropical forests. The vast savannas include an expansive network of wetlands that connect the Guyana’s main river drainage, Essequibo River, to the Amazon River during the rainy season. This unique biogeographic feature influences fish communities of the area. One of the fish species found here is in dire need of protection. Arapaima, threatened throughout their range, are the world’s largest scaled fish, weighing as much as 400lbs, and belonging to one of the most ancient lineages of freshwater fish; their ancestors shared the vast wetlands of prehistoric South America with the dinosaurs. They are also a historically important resource for Guyana’s indigenous communities. In addition to revealing the basic life history of these famous but poorly-understood animals through surveys and radio tracking, Lesley’s research is also aimed at helping the people of the North Rupununi region establish a protected area on their traditional lands, which face biological and cultural threats from large-scale agriculture, mining, and illegal logging.
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