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Its body is fat and clumsy and moves in galumphing style, gracelessly through the forest saplings. Camping one night I was woken up by a strange noise which could only have been produced by an animal, and calling to my guides asked what it was. They recognized the noise without a moment's hesitation as that of a maipuri. The tapir feeds on wild fruits, the seeds of the ite palm and on various leaves.

The strangest animal of the forest is the ant-bear (myrmecophaga jubata), the size of a large dog with a shaggy coat, a vast bushy tail and a long, prosboscis-like head. He is docile when left alone but when attacked he is the most dangerous of all the wild animals of the Colony. He has no teeth, but this disadvantage is made up for by a pair of strong fore-legs tipped with ferocious claws. It is with these claws that he breaks open ants' nests and shoots in his long tongue, on whose sticky surface the ants are caught. Although the claws are quite capable of killing a man the traveller need not fear that his dead body will be actually consumed by the animal. In fact his food must be ant-sized. When Robert Schomburgk caught an ant-eater and kept it in captivity he fed it on fish, but the fish had to be cut up very fine before it could be eaten by the bear.

There is a saying in British Guiana that if you drink creekwater and eat labba you will return to the Colony. Labba (Coelogenys paca) is indeed a delicious animal for the pot. Like a large guinea-pig, it is a fat rodent with short, coarse hair and a stump tail. Amerindians frequently keep labba around their huts, and they are shy in captivity. When hunted by dogs they give them a good hunt and fight back furiously when attacked. The favourite lair of the labba is in small forest creeks where it burrows under the roots or finds a hollow tree-trunk to live in. Amerindians train small dogs, like badger-hounds, to wriggle into the lairs to drive the animals out.

When travelling through the forest my guides would often see the recent tracks of a herd of peccary, or wild pig (Dicotyles labiatus), but only once did we actually come across one, isolated from the herd. Peccary have a small opening in their backs from which comes an unpleasant odour. Early naturalists imagined that this was an unusually-placed navel. Amerindians hunt peccary constantly for food, and it is their main meat.

Richard Schomburgk has a dramatic description of the appearance of a pack of peccary:

'On the following morning as we were crossing one of the woody oases, I heard in the distance a peculiar noise exactly resembling the sound of horses on the gallop, and which appeared to be coming closer and closer. Shouting “Poinka”, the Indians got ready with their guns and bows, and awaited the oncoming of the disturbers of the peace, which soon turned out to be a huge pack of Kairuni (Dicotyles labiatus). As soon as it caught sight of us it stopped a moment in its wild course, made a noise similar to the grunting of our pigs, and prepared now for flight. With an awful clattering and gnashing of teeth, the troop rushed along in front of us. Astonished and chained to the spot by the extraordinary intermezzo on this otherwise peaceful journey of ours, I had at the first go-off forgotten all about shooting, and hearing no shot fired by my companions, was just about to rectify the omission, when the Indian standing next to me drew my weapon away, which only served to increase my astonishment still more; but the riddle was soon to be solved. When the major portion of the pack had passed by, and the stragglers were coming along, the guns and bows were brought into requisition, with the result that we secured four animals. Curiously enough our dogs kept just as quiet as we did, during the "march past", and had lain down on the ground.'

There are more than a dozen varieties of monkey in the forests, but the traveller is likely to be conscious only of one, the Howler Monkey (Mycetes seniculus), whose extraordinary voice, like the rush of an express train, is heard constantly, usually at dawn or dusk. The howlers move in families and their roar is a well-concerted chorus which carries for ten miles or more through the forest; when first heard this unearthly sound is likely to chill the spine. The sound is out of all proportion to the modest size of the animal and is caused by a swelling of part of the throat in the males to form a deep, wide and bony sac, which immensely resonates the sound.

The most unpleasant inhabitant of the forest is the vampire bat (Desmodus rufus) which is found in most areas of the Interior, particularly the upper Cuyuni. It is about four inches long with a wing-span of a foot. One morning, on the Mazaruni, I noticed that one of the Amerindian crew of my boat had a bloody foot. He told me he had woken up to find a bat at work. Its action, he said, was quite painless; it gently chisels away at the skin with two flat incisors until the blood flows freely, which it then laps up with its tongue.

The highly coloured forest birds, the toucans, macaws and parrots, are usually seen as domestic pets around the villages, having been caught as nestlings with blow-pipe or catapult. The most lovely of these birds is, to my taste, the sun-parrot (Psittacus solstitialis), which the Amerindians call the Kessikessi, a loudly-shrieking golden yellow bird which used to fly in flocks over certain areas of the Interior.

Tree Ant-eater

The powis (Crax nigra) and the maam (Tinamus sp.) are the two best game-birds and make excellent eating, though the powis is rather tough. It is noticeable, on the rivers, that all the birds there know whether or not they are creatures desired by man. Those not wanted would remain where they were until we were a few yards from them, but game-birds had taken wing as soon as they sensed our approach. The powis is of the turkey family and about the same size. The maam is smaller and fatter. One of the loveliest birds is the cock-of-the-rock (rupicola

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crocea), whose male, about the size of a bantam fowl, is thickly feathered, almost all over, with brilliant orange plumage. The curri-curri or scarlet ibis (ibis rubra) is found in the river estuaries, but appears to be much less plentiful than it used to be. In the forests I saw one or two of the many varieties of humming-bird (Topaza pella), but until an Amerindian brought me one dead I did not realize that the feathers of the bird are dull and colourless when caught in one light, but become alive and vibrant when the light strikes from the right direction.

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I was never to see close-to the bird which most seized my imagination in the forest, only to hear its superb and haunting call, like the sound of a delicate silver gong. This was the bellbird (Casmoryhnchus carunculatus), a pure white bird about the size of a small pigeon. Its peculiarity, apart from the beauty of its call, is an inch-long wattle which protrudes from its fore

head. It is only heard at the higher altitudes and I never heard it below 1,800 feet.

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A study of the history of the Interior of the Colony shows that under the Dutch, the French and the British there have always been long periods of more or less complete lack of official interest in Interior development, punctuated by short periods of intense, but not very successful activity. At the moment there is a period of extreme interest, and as a conclusion to this swift survey of the Interior I will quote the observations on Interior Development made by the World Bank Report: "The Government', it says,

'has under consideration a proposal for a special commission to promote the development of the Interior. A fairly substantial share of the proposed development programme, on the basis of comparative population, is devoted to the Interior, including agricultural research and experimentation, geologic and air surveys, interior main and feeder roads, air transportation and air strips, the entire forestry and mining programme, the proposed stone quarries, the major part of the beef cattle programme, the Tumatumari power project and parts of the telecommunications programme. They are intended to promote further development of the Interior in the next five years and, through research and surveys, to prepare the way for its continued development in later stages (e.g. the road link to the Rupununi, proposed for construction after 1958). While the mission believes that the Development Secretary and the Credit Corporation should make special efforts to assure a co-ordinated programme for the development of the Interior, the programme can be carried out directly by government departments, as well as by private firms and individuals, and the mission sees no need for a special commission for the Interior. The development programme for the area should be regarded by the government as an integral part of the over-all programme. A special commission would serve only to emphasize the conflicting rather than the common interests of the Seawall and the Bush.'

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