Rupununi ranger goes from the wild into the classroom

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Asaph Wilson stays focused during a hunting expedition

…prepares for conservation training in Rwanda

By Alva Solomon

Two decades ago, Asaph Wilson decided to take a proactive role in the conservation of the environment around him by becoming a ranger so as to ensure that the flora and fauna of the South Central Rupununi villages remain intact.

It is a manual job that requires dedication and physical stamina. These days, the father of four is taking things to the next level, by undertaking leadership training to further enhance his knowledge and ability and by year-end, he will be travelling to complete the “exciting” parts of the programme.

Wilson, who hails from the village of Katoonarib, is a member of the South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS) and according to him, he has dedicated much of his life to the conservation of the animals within the region.

He has been a part of the Red Siskin project being undertaken by the SRCS and it involves dedicating lots of his time to monitoring the rare bird around the clock.

Asaph Wilson stands ready to protect his environs and to ensure that conservation of the flora and fauna of the area remains intact (Photo Credit: SRCS)

According to research, Guyana is one of the only places in the world where the bird can be found in the wild. It is considered endangered and the South Rupununi Conservation Society has been leading a project to prevent the destruction of the habitat of the bird as well as to protect it from trappers.

Wilson told Guyana Times that as part of his duties, he and others volunteer their services at various sites within the South Central Rupununi to ensure that the birds’ population is increasing. He said there are several villages where the teams operate from and these include Sand Creek, Sawariwau, Katoonarib, Rupunau, Shulinab and Potarinau.

“I have been in conservation since the year 2000,” he said, adding that he was involved in laying the foundation for the Red Siskin project. Wilson said that the monitoring process involves teams fanning out in the wild, checking on the bird’s population and these duties are undertaken weekly or fortnightly. He said the teams would alternate their times.

“So once a week, a group would go out and then another group would take over the week after or it happens fortnightly,” he added.

According to the SRCS, the body plans to collaborate with the communities and this will create a “Red Siskin Community Based Conservation Management” zone which would be one of the first of its kind in Guyana.

“The zone would cover the known range of the Red Siskin and have a set of rules whose purpose is to protect the Red Siskin that will be decided upon by the 6 communities. The zone would then be monitored by SRCS rangers from each of the 6 communities with the aim of a reduction in the number of threats and a hopeful increase in their population,” the SRCS said.

As part of its mandate, the body was provided with another tranche of a conservation grant by the Conservation Leadership Programme, a global environmental non-profit body.
It is under this funding that Asaph has been invited to participate in the “Conservation Management and Leadership Course” by the CLP.

Wilson said he recently embarked on the one-month virtual leadership training and he said he is adjusting to the use of technology in the office environment.

Asaph has moved to the classroom to boost his conservation leadership skills

“Well it is difficult to transition to the office and technology but I am happy for the exposure,” he said.

He said he is particularly excited about the practical phase of the training which would see him travelling to Rwanda in Africa in October this year to complete the in-person phase of the course.

“I feel good about it because I never had that sort of training in conservation before,” he said.

Wilson, who is a father of three boys and a girl, said that he has been passing on his knowledge and experiences to his children and he noted that they are all involved in conservation. “Conservation is key to our future and I ensure that they have that understanding because that would be part of their future,” the conservationist added.

Neal Miller, Programme Coordinator of the SRCS told this publication that Wilson is also an experienced tour guide.

In particular, Wilson’s focus is on birds and he has been described as the “best tour guide ever” and the “world’s greatest field assistant” due to his incredible eyesight.

Miller said that Wilson is able to spot birds from an “incredible distance by both sight and sound.”

In 2019, Wilson received an honourable mention from the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) during their 2019 award ceremony. The conservationist continues to live a traditional lifestyle which involves hunting, fishing and farming.