strange species
Credit: Conservation International

Suriname is a small region in South America nestled between French Guiana and Guyana. Approximately 90 per cent of the country is covered with rainforest, and the government has been under pressure from mining, road and dam projects.

Strange creatureWithin this region of Suriname is a wilderness virtually untouched by human progress – an Eden on Earth – and one of the most remote and unexplored regions of rainforest left in the world.

Last year, a team of 16 international scientists launched a three-week expedition into a mountainous region in southeastern Suriname. The Conservation International science team has now published its findings.

The team has documented stunning biodiversity in the region, which includes 60 species that the team believes likely be new, as well as many unique species that many not exist anywhere on Earth. The 60 new species include six frogs, one snake and 11 fish, as well as many insects.

New species were not the only new findings from this study though… The team, while studying the mountains in the region, found headwaters that feed the largest rivers in Suriname, making this region one of the most important in the country in terms of providing fresh water. These rivers provide transport, food and fresh water for drinking to more than 50,000 people – a large portion of the population of the country.

However, the research team did find that the water in the area was not completely immune from human progress. It found trace levels of mercury in the fresh water in the area, which is still safe for human consumption, but worrying none the less.

So what can we learn about this ecological study? For more than 20 years Conservation International has been working with the government of Suriname to help it ward off the pressures from big business and focus on a sustainable development. If there is anything to take away from this study, it is that a country can coexist with nature without turning to logging, mining or farm fields.