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The Rupununi /rʌpəˈnʌni/ is a region in the south-west of Guyana, bordering the Brazilian Amazon. The Rupununi river, also known by the local indigenous peoples as Raponani, flows through the Rupununi region. The name Rupununi originates from the word rapon in the Makushi language, in which it means the black-bellied whistling duck found along the river. [1]


A map of the rivers, including the Rupununi, that flow through Guyana Essequiborivermap.png
A map of the rivers, including the Rupununi, that flow through Guyana


The Rupununi River is one of the main tributaries of the Essequibo River and is located in southern Guyana. The river originates in the Kanuku Mountains, which are located in the Upper Takutu-Essequibo region. The Rupununi River flows near the Guyana-Brazil border, and eventually leads into the Essequibo River. Throughout the flood season, the river shares a watershed with the Amazon. During the rainy season it is connected to the Takutu River by the flooded Pirara Creek, draining the vast swamps of the Parima or Amaku Lake. The region surrounding the Rupununi river is composed of mainly savannah, wetlands, forest, and low mountain ranges.The area of Region 9 is 57,750 square kilometers and has over 80 communities. Most people live within the Rupununi Savannah area, while the jungle covered areas are only populated near major rivers.


The geology of this area is divided into four main zones. Furthest south are areas of Rhyacian meta-sediments, meta-volcanics (Kwitaro Group) and associated granites, all intruded by Orosirian rocks of the Southern Guyana Granite Complex. The Kanuku Mountains consist of high grade gneises in a NE-SW belt. The Takutu Graben is a NE-SW fault bounded basin initially filled by basaltic lava, then Mesozoic sediments, including the Takutu Formation. To the north of the Takutu Graben almost flat lying Statherian sandstones and conglomerates of the Roraima Group sediments overly Iwokrama Formation felsic volcanics and associated Orosirian granites. [2] Relict Hadean zircons (xenocrysts) in the Iwokrama Formation suggest that older crust must occur at depth. [3]

Animal life

The areas both in and surrounding the Rupununi river are home to a great diversity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that harbor many species extirpated from other areas of South America. The Rupununi's freshwater eco-regions are areas of exceptional species richness, comparable to that of the Amazonia. [1] Flora and fauna flourish in the Rupununi river because of the Rupununi's isolation from human activity. During an expedition, the South Rupununi Biodiversity Assessment Team (BAT), described the Rupununi river as being "very diverse". [4] "The Northern Rupununi has more than fourteen hundred species of vertebrates, more than twenty-eight hundred species of plants, and countless species of invertebrates" (Rupununi, Rediscovering a Lost World). [1]


Adult Harpy Eagle Harpia harpyja -Belize-8a.jpg
Adult Harpy Eagle

The vegetation and unperturbed tree life along the Rupununi river, is a haven for rare species of bird-life. A biodiversity study conducted by BAT (South Rupununi Biodiversity Assessment Team), discovered a total of 306 bird species living along the river. [5] The critically endangered Red Siskin (Carduelis cucullata), was one of the many species of bird that were re-discovered in the Rupununi river. Another avian-survey of the North Rupununi river, conducted by David C. Morimoto, Gajendra Nauth Narine, Michael D. Schindlinger and Asaph Wilson (DCM, MDS), showed that "4243 individuals, 292 species, and 58 families" [6] of birds inhabited the Northern Rupununi river. Other rare bird species that were found in the survey were the Crested Doradito (Pseudocolopteryx sclateri) and the Sun Parakeet (Aratinga solstitialis). [6] The famed Harpy Eagle also inhabits the Rupununi and is the largest aerial predator in South America. [1]

Notable species include:


A swimming black caiman. Blackcaiman leofleck.jpg
A swimming black caiman.

Reptiles thrive in the Rupununi river, preying off of small fish and crustaceans. In another study conducted by the BAT (South Rupununi Biodiversity Assessment Team), it was discovered that 34 different species [5] of reptiles were living along the river. The black caiman is the largest predator in the Rupununi, measuring up to 5 meters in length, however it has become endangered due to hunting for their belly skins throughout the 1930s - 1970s. [1]

Notable species include:

Large mammals

The elusive Jaguar Jaguar head shot-edit2.jpg
The elusive Jaguar

The Rupununi is home to relatively healthy populations of the South America's giant mammals, including the largest feline terrestrial predators, the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the puma (Puma concolor). [1] Both the jaguar and the puma are extremely elusive cats, adept at hunting anything from turtles to domesticated dogs. [1] However they are seen as threats to livestock, and are hunted, which has ultimately resulted in a decline in their population numbers. Another large mammal that lives in the Rupununi is the Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), which is the largest otter in the world. Various species of primates and smaller terrestrial herbivores and insectivores such as the Tapir (Tapirus), also live and forage along the Rupununi river.

Notable species include:

Aquatic life

Arapaima close-up Arapaima close-up.jpg
Arapaima close-up

The Rupununi has one of the most diverse aquatic ecosystems on the planet. A total of 410 species of fish inhabit the Rupununi, surpassing that of French Guiana (298 species) and Suriname (309 species). [1] However, since there is a lack of freshwater fish taxonomists and researchers studying the area, it is estimated that there are at least 600 different species of fish in the Rupununi. [1] Giants also lurk in the waters of the Rupununi. The arapaima (Arapaima) and the Lau-Lau (B. filamentosum) each measuring approximately 2, and in some exceptional cases 4 meters in length, [8] have been found in the most remote corners of the Rupununi river. However, these river monsters are seldom seen and are rarely ever caught. Overexploitation and overfishing have forced these two species of fish to migrate deeper into unexplored territory in the Rupununi. [9]

Notable species include:


Precolonial civilization

An Amerindian family traveling on the Rupununi River The Rupununi River.jpg
An Amerindian family traveling on the Rupununi River

Indigenous peoples have been part of the Rupununi landscape for millennia. Anthropologists have discovered Paleo-Indian petroglyphs, dated to be several thousands of years old [1] along the course of the Rupununi river. Before the colonization of Guyana and the Rupununi region, the Makushi Amerindians, Wai-Wai and the Wapishana all inhabited the area. The Makushi migrated from what is now known as modern Brazil and Venezuela, to the northern areas of the Rupununi river, over four-hundred years ago. [1] The Makushi Amerindians continue to live in the Rio Branco savannahs and northern Rupununi, surviving off of the abundance of fish, wildlife and forest resources of the area.

Age of exploration

Sir Walter Raleigh claimed that the Rupununi was where the famed El Dorado was situated, however he never explored the river. Other early explorers such as Charles Waterton and Robert Schomburgk attempted to locate El Dorado, and successfully managed to visit the supposed location of the South-American myth, which is in fact part of the northern Rupununi. However they never found El Dorado.

20th century development

Guyana is a developing country that lacks sustainable economic, environmental and investment growth. Exploiting the Rupununi's resources through corporate agriculture, mining and petroleum extraction are potential pathways that Guyana could undertake. Extant roads such as the one connecting the Rupununi and the state of Roraima are being upgraded to travel all the way to Georgetown. A bridge has also been constructed on the Guyana-Brazil border, that links Lethem (Guyana) to Bonfim (Brazil). This infrastructure will facilitate the transportation of goods throughout the area, however it poses a threat to the Rupununi's fragile eco-system.

In order to formally protect the Rupununi's eco-system, NGO's and the Guyanese government have partnered up to attempt to enforce legislation to ban any perjudicial human activity towards the environment and wildlife in the Rupununi. [1]

Eco-tourism and adventure tourism

Eco-tourism in the Rupununi is an important part of Guyana's economy, especially for the local Amerindian people. There are many ranches and lodges such as the Karanambu Ranch, a protected area for giant otters and other endangered species in the Rupununi, started by Tiny McTurk (1927), [10] that generate revenue from tourists visiting the Rupununi. Near to Karanambu is the ecolodge Caiman House, a social enterprise that drives revenue to a public library, raising the pass rate into secondary school from near-zero in 2005 to 86% in 2019.

Conservation International host a website on the Rupununi that includes details of eco-tourism accommodation. Some tourists travel overland from Georgetown to Lethem via the Rupununi and on to Brazil, but the travel is very slow in the rainy season when the dirt roads degrade, and may be impossible. Rock View Lodge and The Pakaraima Mountain Inn are both near Annai 3–5 hours from Lethem. The Rupununi / Lethem Rodeo is a tourist attraction at Easter (during the dry season).

See also

Related Research Articles

The transport sector comprises the physical infrastructure, docks and vehicle, terminals, fleets, ancillary equipment and service delivery of all the various modes of transport operating in Guyana. The transport services, transport agencies providing these services, the organizations and people who plan, build, maintain, and operate the system, and the policies that mold its development.

Geography of Guyana

The Geography of Guyana comprises the physical characteristics of the country in Northern South America and part of Caribbean South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Suriname and Venezuela, with a land area of approximately 214,969 square kilometres. The country is situated between 1 and 9 north latitude and between 56 and 62 west longitude. With a 459 km (285 mi)-long Atlantic coastline on the northeast, Guyana is bounded by Venezuela on the west, Brazil on the west and south, and Suriname on the east. The land comprises three main geographical zones: the coastal plain, the white sand belt and the interior highlands.

Lethem, Guyana Town and regional capital in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

Lethem is a town in Guyana, located in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo region. It is the regional capital of Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo.

Kanuku Mountains Mountain range in Guyana

The Kanuku Mountains are a group of mountains in Guyana, located in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo region. The name means 'forest' in the Wapishana language, a reference to the rich diversity of wildlife found there. The Eastern Kanuku Mountains and the Western Kanuku Mountains are separated by the Rupununi River. In 2011, the mountains were designated National Protected Area.

Rupununi savannah

The Rupununi savannah is a savanna plain in Guyana, in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo region. It is an ecoregion of the Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands Biome.

Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region of Guyana

Upper Takutu-Upper Esequibo is a region of Guyana. Venezuela claims the territory as part of Esequiban Guyana.

Apoteri Village in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

Apoteri is a village in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region of Guyana, near the confluence of the Rupununi River with the Essequibo, at an altitude of 53 metres. Apoteri started to develop as the centre of the balatá industry. The population is mainly Amerindian of the Macushi and Wapishana people.

Takutu River

The Takutu River is a river in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region of Guyana and Roraima in Brazil. It forms part of the boundary between the two countries. The confluence of the Takutu and Uraricoera Rivers forms the Branco River. The Takutu River's sources almost link with those of the Essequibo River; in the rainy season, flooding links the Takutu to the Rupununi River, a tributary of the Essequibo.

Dadanawa Ranch Estate in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

Dadanawa Ranch is located on the Rupununi River in the Rupununi savannah in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region of Guyana. It is the largest and one of the most isolated cattle ranches in Guyana.

Aishalton Amerindian Village in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

Aishalton is an Amerindian village that is situated in the Rupununi savannah of southern Guyana, in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region of the country.

Guyana Country in South America

Guyana, officially the Co‑operative Republic of Guyana, is a country on the northern mainland of South America and the capital city is Georgetown. Guyana is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Brazil to the south and southwest, Venezuela to the west, and Suriname to the east. With 215,000 square kilometres (83,000 sq mi), Guyana is the third-smallest sovereign state by area in mainland South America after Uruguay and Suriname; it is also the second-least populous sovereign state in South America after Suriname.

The North Rupununi District in located in south-west Guyana consisting of a mixture of forest, savannah and wetlands ecosystems and is considered one of the most diverse areas in South America. Located on the eastern margin of the larger savannah system which extends into Brazil and is separated by the Ireng and Takutu rivers that come together to form the Rio Branco. The Guyana Rupununi system is divided into the North and South Rupununi by the Kanuku Mountains.

Wowetta Village in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

Wowetta is an indigenous village in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region in Guyana. The village is mainly inhabited by Macushi people.

Surama Amerindian village in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

Surama is an Amerindian village in the North Rupununi area and the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region of Guyana, with a population of 274 people as of 2012.

Karinambo village in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

Karinambo is a village in Guyana. Charles Barrington Brown stayed in the Amerindian village near the Takutu Savanna in the 1870s.

Rewa, Guyana village in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

Rewa is an Amerindian village in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo region of Guyana.

Hiawa Village in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

Hiawa is an indigenous village of Macushi Amerindians in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region of Guyana. It is located in the Rupununi savannah.

Yupukari Village in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

Yupukari is an indigenous village of Macushi and Wapishana Amerindians in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region of Guyana. It is located between the Kanuku and Pakaraima Mountains along the Rupununi River.

St. Ignatius, Guyana Amerindian village in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

St. Ignatius is an Amerindian village in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo region of Guyana, near the regional capital Lethem and the border of Brazil. It was originally a mission founded by Jesuit priests to serve the Amerindians in the Rupununi savannah.

Karaudarnau Village in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Guyana

Karaudarnau is an indigenous village of Wapishana Amerindians in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region of Guyana. It is located in the Rupununi savannah on the Rupununi River.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Rupununi Rediscovering a Lost World. China: Earth In Focus. 2010. p. 5. ISBN   978-0-9841686-4-4.
  2. Berrangé, J.P. (1977). The geology of Southern Guyana, South America. Institute of Geological Sciences Overseas Memoir. 4.CS1 maint: location (link)
  3. Nadeau, S.; et al. (December 2013). "Guyana: the Lost Hadean crust of South America?". Brazilian Journal of Geology. 43 (4): 601–606.
  4. GuyanaTimes. "Study team finds high level of biodiversity in Rupununi". Guyana Times. Retrieved 2016-02-19.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 WWF-Guianas; Global Wildlife Conservation (December 2013). "SOUTH RUPUNUNI BIODIVERSITY ASSESSMENT TEAM (BAT) EXPEDITION" (PDF). Biodiversity in the Rupununi.
  6. 1 2 David C. Morimoto, Gajendra Nauth (Andy) Narine, Michael D.schindlinger & Asaph Wilson. "A Baseline Avian Survey of the North Rupununi River, Region 9, Guyana." A Baseline Avian Survey of the North Rupununi River, Region 9, Guyana (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. <>.
  7. 1 2 "DAGRON TOURS | Bird Watching | Guyana Birds: Bonanza". Retrieved 2016-02-19.
  8. "Brachyplatystoma filamentosum summary page". FishBase. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  9. "BBC Nature - Giant Amazon fish 'locally extinct' due to overfishing". 2014-08-14. Archived from the original on August 14, 2014. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  10. Productions, Biograph II. "The Karanambu Trust & Eco-tourist Lodge". Retrieved 2016-02-21.

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