Guayanan Highlands Forests

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La Planada Nature Reserve, Colombia.
© WWF-Canon / Pablo CORRAL

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Guayanan Highlands moist forests; and Tepuis. The Guayanan highlands are recognized as an evolutionary centre for plants and animals found in both Amazonian and the Guayanan lowland forests.

The forests are exceptionally diverse (the highest known parrot diversity, for example) and harbor some of the world's last remaining, large intact tropical watersheds.

The Guayanan Highlands contain all of South America's tepuis - sandstone plateaus occurring in an east-west belt from Suriname to just east of the Andes.

The biological communities of tepuis are notable for their numerous unique species and their many unusual adaptations to the nutrient-poor, cool, soggy environments - typical of tepuis summits. Waterfalls are common here and include the world’s largest: Angel Falls at 979 m.

The climate is seasonal and humid.

Size:
386,000 sq. km (150,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
South America: Brazil, Colombia, Suriname, and Venezuela

Conservation Status:
Relatively Stable/Intact

Local Species
Selected Species include the giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), Guianan cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola), golden-handed or midas tamarin (Saguinus midas), harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), and the red fan parrot (Deroptyus accipitrinus) - so named because of a brilliant red fan of feathers around its head.

There is an extraordinary richness of species on the tepuis. Of the more than 2,300 vascular plant species found in this ecoregion, 33% are endemic. A total of 20 species of the bamboo genus Myriocladus are endemic. 186 mammal species, including 9 primates live here.

These primates include howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus), night monkeys (Aotus trivirgatus), titi monkeys (Callicebus torquatus), black uakari (Cacajao melanocephalus), weeper capuchins (Cebus olivaceus), and white-faced sakis (Pithecia pithecia). 628 bird species are also found here with 41 of them being endemic.
 / ©: WWF / Zig KOCH
Harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), Juruena National Park, Brazil.
© WWF / Zig KOCH

Featured Species

 / ©: WWF-Canon / André BÄRTSCHI
Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), Manu National Park, Peru.
© WWF-Canon / André BÄRTSCHI
Giant otters (Pteronura brasiliensis) have a seal-like head with well-developed jaw muscles and 34-36 teeth. Their wide, flattened wedge of a tail enables them to swim with great speed and underwater. Giant otters are about 1.8 m (6 ft) long from head to tail, and they usually weigh between 27 – 31 kg. Males are only slightly larger than females. Their ears are small and round, and like their nostrils, can be closed by special muscles when underwater.

The fur of river otters is so dense that water never reaches their skin, even when they're swimming. Giant otter guard hairs trap air and keep the dense inner fur dry. Their coat is mainly brown or gray and is usually darker on the back and lighter on the chest. Lips, chin, throat, and upper chest exhibit white blotches - which may merge into a single white ‘bib’.

Giant river otters are social, typically forming groups of 4-8 individuals. Cubs are reared in a central den area (1.2-1.8 m wide) that connects to an adjacent waterway via a tunnel or series of tunnels. Its life span is approximately 14 years.

The giant river otter has become rare or nonexistent over most of its range. This decline is largely due to habitat loss and commercial fur hunting. Though the fur trade is currently prohibited, hunting does continue. It is listed as endangered by IUCN.

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WWF’s work
WWF is working with governments and citizens to ensure conservation efforts are sustainable and successful. It aims to strengthen local capacities by providing scholarships and other training opportunities to individuals and communities. WWF has also implemented several public awareness campaigns related to sea turtle conservation, fisheries management and marine protected areas.

Additionally, WWF and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have been working together to establish the Ecoregional Financial Mechanism (EFM), a novel initiative that has brought stakeholders together to provide long-term financial sustainability to conservation and natural resource management activities throughout the ecoregion.

WWF's focus is on 2 conservation priorities: the Southwestern Amazon ecoregion, a last refuge for highly endangered species like jaguars, harpy eagles and giant river otters; and ARPA one of the world's most ambitious conservation projects that will result in more than 190,000 square miles of Amazonian rainforest - an area larger than the state of California - under protection by 2010.

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