The history of Guyana Zoo is intertwined with that of the Botanical Gardens. In 1879 a board of directors was appointed to direct the formation of a Botanical Garden in Georgetown, Demerara. The botanical gardens had attracted wildlife to the site from the beginning, particularly waterfowl, herons and egrets. The first recorded attempt to establish a zoo within the gardens was made in 1880 by Henry Kirke, Sheriff of Demerara, while he was president of the Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society. This attempt was short-lived, and after his departure, the animals either died or were transferred to British zoos. Several species were left to live in the gardens: tapir, capybara, and the most well-known manatees. The manatees originated from a pair of animals presented to Kirke’s fledgling zoo in 1895. The manatees have survived in the canals and ponds of the gardens since that time.
In 1935, an attempt was made to re-establish the zoo by Mr. J.R. Muss, but the project was cancelled by the director of agriculture, under whose jurisdiction the gardens fell. In 1946 Mr. E.F. Correia presented the first harpy eagle to the Museum of Guyana on the condition that it be publicly displayed. At first displayed on the grounds of the public library, the cage was later moved to the botanical gardens. As a result of the eagle display, the Guyanese and international public began making donations of birds, mammals , snakes, lion, elephants etc. With the growing number of animals, a more appropriate space was needed to house them as such the present zoological park was laid out and built in the northwestern corner of the botanical gardens and opened to the public on January 1, 1952. Like the botanical gardens, the zoo enjoyed popularity during the late 1950s and 1960s. In 2011, after the passing of the PA Act, the Guyana Zoo, covering 2 hectares, was included as the smallest member of our National Protected Areas System. The Zoo receives up to 10,000 visitors a month and plays an important role in increasing environmental educational and awareness among school children, and Guyanese in general.
It all started in the Zoo! Nature Education for a new generation of environmental stewards
Education is an integral part of our work and is the key to equipping people with vital information that can inform decision-making, action and change. We at the Protected Areas Commission recognize the importance of nature education in ensuring effective conservation in Guyana. The PAC set out to develop grassroots environmental education strategies across the NPAS under its Strategic Plan. This goal had a strong foundation stemming from programmes set up in the Guyana Zoo, the genesis of which is the Zoo Volunteer Programme, which started more than 20 years ago. Over a fifteen-week period, young adults were trained with skills to share nature education using the Zoo as their classroom. In return, Volunteers were required to give back time spreading environmental awareness with patrons of the Zoo for atleast a year. This programme served as a training ground for many young conservationists who are now currently playing leading roles in the environmental sector in Guyana. As an outcome of the Volunteer Programme, a summer programme called “Zoo Camp” was birthed. This is a one-week activity for children ages 6 to 14 years. It offers children the opportunity to learn about our local wildlife, conservation and nature preservation, by instilling environmental values and nature appreciation. The Journey to the Hinterland Protected Areas – Building on these existing programmes, the PAC expanded nature education to the hinterland regions where protected areas are located. This took the form of overnight nature camps, day camps and education outreach visits to schools under the theme “It’s In Our Nature”. Our nature camps began in 2017 in the Kanuku Mountains Protected Area and has since been held in all the other protected areas.
On the Horizon!
Beyond the stakeholders in and around protected reason, the PAC is seeking to build the consciousness of all Guyanese to better appreciate and care for nature. To this end a plan is being mulled for the re-purposing of the Guyana Zoo. For a number of years the Guyana Zoo, as a policy, has avoided the acquisition of new wildlife for its exhibits. The Zoo continues to be the main destination for injured, sick, orphaned, unwanted or confiscated wildlife. In a significant number of cases, the Zoo releases these animals as soon as they are found to be healthy or capable of surviving in the wild. As such, the Zoo has already been functioning as a de facto Rehabilitation Centre for some time. On the other hand, animals that are orphaned, severely injured or with a history of captivity are often kept at the Zoo, and eventually become permanent residents. With this in mind, it is proposed that the Zoo be officially designated as Guyana’s Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Centre. The facility’s primary mission would be revised to focus on the rehabilitating and reintroduction of wildlife to natural spaces, while providing environmental education opportunities for the Guyanese public particularly students and citizens who may not have an opportunity to see these precious animals in the wild. This plan would involve the construction of a new nature school outfitted with staff to teach students visiting from schools across the country.
By focusing on education, we hope to cultivate a new generation of Guyanese that see wildlife as more than just novelties or pets, but as wild animals that should be conserved in their natural habitats. We are currently working on improving the aesthetics and creating more natural enclosures for the animals. We hope to connect Guyanese and visitors with our rich biodiversity and the uniqueness of our protected areas.
National Park, Thomas Lands,