South Rupununi Conservation Society receives int’l award for preserving wildlife, supporting traditional livelihoods

Kim Spencer holds a Red Siskin, one of the endangered species studied by the South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS)

The Field Museum has announced a leading conservation group in the megadiverse South American country of Guyana is the recipient of the museum’s prestigious Parker/Gentry Award for their efforts to preserve wildlife, engage young people, and support traditional livelihoods in the Rupununi region.

The Field Museum is awarding the Parker/Gentry Award, an annual prize for outstanding and under-recognized conservation models around the globe, to the South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS). The museum recognises the significant impact the group has had on Guyana’s natural and cultural heritage through its research and conservation of native species and its thoughtful stewardship of the places they inhabit.

“The Guyanese government is making a major push to safeguard the country’s biodiversity,” says Dr. Lesley de Souza, chair of the Award Selection Committee at the Field Museum and an expert on Guyana’s freshwater fish. “It’s a real honor to support that mission by recognising one of the country’s most inspiring and effective local conservation groups.”

Originally founded in 1998 by a group of friends eager to reverse the decline of certain species native to the area, SRCS’s work is firmly rooted in the forests, savannas, and wetlands of Guyana’s Rupununi. This globally-celebrated biodiversity hotspot is home to a large number of Indigenous communities, many of which lend their expertise to the Society’s conservation goals. The experts who staff and currently lead SRCS come from all walks of life—from tour guides and teachers to business leaders and scientists. Since 2002, its mission is to preserve the wildlife, environment, and culture of the Rupununi region of Southern Guyana through community-based conservation, environmental education, and research.

Leroy Ignacio, the current president of SRCS, is grateful to see conservation become a collaborative effort among conservation experts.

“It is an honor for SRCS, the people of Rupununi, our friends around the world, and Guyana to receive this prestigious award from the Field Museum,” Ignacio says. “In our experience, collaboration between local experts, the scientific community, and national entities provides a model that promotes local efforts to produce tangible conservation impacts. Thanks to the Field Museum for acknowledging our local efforts at this critical time of global pressure on natural resources and traditional livelihoods.”

SRCS projects to date include population studies of globally threatened birds such as the Endangered Red Siskin (Spinus cucullatus), Vulnerable Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), environmental education and traditional knowledge programs in Indigenous communities, habitat preservation and restoration, and work to restore populations of globally Vulnerable Yellow-spotted River Turtles (Podocnemis unifilis).

The Field Museum is a forward-thinking scientific leader on a mission to explore, protect, and celebrate nature and culture. From exhibitions that inspire journeys of discovery in visitors young and old, to the groundbreaking research and conservation efforts driven by our 40 million artifacts and specimens, we’re on a mission to spark public engagement with science and uncover solutions for a brighter world.

Established in 1996 and made possible by an anonymous donor, the Parker/Gentry Award is named after conservationists Ted Parker and Al Gentry, who were killed in a 1993 airplane crash while pursuing conservation work in South America. Past awardees represent remarkable achievements in more than a dozen countries and across diverse ecosystems, from the rainforests of South America, Africa, and India to valuable freshwater resources like the Great Lakes in North America, to coastal regions worldwide. Awardees have been recognized for protecting critical species and landscapes, providing training and education, and conducting significant scientific research to advance conservation on the ground.