A taste of Suriname !

01 Jan
Suriname, the smallest independent country in South America, is a modern day reflection of the worlds’ past and our planet’s future. Situated north of Brazil on the Atlantic coast, Suriname’s population of half a million is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse populations on our planet. It is comprised of Javanese, Hindustanis, Chinese, Lebanese, Jews, Dutch, Creoles, Maroons and Indigenous peoples. In past decennia, Haitian and Brazilian[1] groups joined them. The people of these various ethnic groups work, play, love, worship, party and live in harmony with one another.
Approximately 90% of Surinamese’s population lives on the coast, primarily in the capital of Paramaribo. Paramaribo is established on the coast and is known as one of the most beautiful cities in the Caribbean. Its historical inner city, a combination of Dutch Colonial and New Orleans Creole architecture, is placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Southern 80% of Suriname consists of minimally impacted tropical rainforest, containing hundreds of endemic species.

The history of Suriname has brought the varied population groups together. Today’s creoles and maroons are descendents of African slaves which were brought to the country by English and Dutch colonists to work on cotton, sugar, maize and wood plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1863. After this date indentured laborers from Indonesia, India and later China were shipped to Suriname to work on the plantations. Jews, Lebanese and Dutch people are the descendants of the colonists. The indigenous people who first were used as slaves fought for their freedom and retracted in the forests. The maroons who were able flee from the plantations hid behind the rapids and waterfalls, where the colonizers could not find them. Today the Maroons and Indigenous peoples live in the Interior, which covers 80% of the country.

The different population groups live in peace with each other. They adhere to large world religions such as Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, but still live in harmony. This is symbolically expressed by the fact that a mosque was built next to a synagogue. On high days all the religious leaders come together to discuss moral and ethical topics. They are united in the Inter Religion Council. All ethnic groups have preserved cultural traits from the country of their ancestors, as well as from their early days in Suriname.

The coast is rich in birds

Suriname consists of a coastal area, a savanna belt and an interior covered with tropical rainforest. The coast with its extensive mudflats, mangrove forests, lagoons and swamps is very rich in birds. In the 1980’s, the Canadian Wildlife Service carried out several aerial surveys along the entire coast of South America and counted more than two million migratory North American shorebirds are flying to Suriname for wintering. Herons, ibises and storks follow, with a total number of a few hundred thousands of birds. More than 100 bird species depends entirely on these coastal wetlands. Almost 80 species are true water birds. Therefore Suriname occupies a special place in the coastal wetlands of South America. The coast of Suriname is very fertile and by far the most important wintering area for North American shorebirds in South America. Several Suriname wetlands have been included in the “Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance” (RAMSAR Convention 1996, 1997). In 1989, the Coppename Monding Nature Reserve was dedicated as “Hemispheric Reserve” within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN).

Besides birds also endangered sea turtles such as the leatherback occur on the coast of Suriname. The number of ‘leatherbacks’ is declining dramatically. They are the most endangered turtle species in the world. They survived 100 million years of climate changes and impacts from asteroids, but will be completely extinct within the coming 10 until 20 years if there is not enough international cooperation to combat this dramatic decline. On sea, the global fish industry is their biggest threat and on land their survival is threatened by the destruction of their nesting areas and the exploitation of their eggs. The leatherback can become approximately 2,8 meters in length, 1,8 meter wide and can weigh 1 ton. He is able to dive 804 meter deep. They breed in four different countries, moves in the territorial waters of many other countries and swims in international waters where protection is limited. Once they reach the coast of Suriname they lay their eggs in all freedom, because they are protected.

The savanna is above sea level

The savanna belt of Suriname an area of about 12.000 square kilometers is a level to gently rolling landscape 10 – 100 meters above sea level. It forms a continuous belt across the country and consists of infertile, coarse bleached and unbleached sands and sandy clays. Most striking are the sediments which were exposed and have undergone intense bleaching resulting in coarse white sand. The patches of white sands are the preferred location for Amerindian (Arowak cand Carib) settlements, which are dispersed throughout the savanna belt along small creeks.

The interior is extremely rich in biodiversity

The interior of Suriname is established on the Guyana Shield, one of the oldest geological formations on earth, stretched across Suriname , French-Guiana , Guyana , Venezuela , Brazil and Columbia . Biodiversity on this shield is extremely rich, with an estimated 20.000 plant species of which 35% (7.000) are endemic, making this shield one of the three richest tropical wilderness area on earth. The Guyana Shield is of enormous importance for the world population, because of its biological service that her ecosystems offer. It is a region where much wild life appears that is found nowhere else on earth. That is particularly true for Suriname . The Amazon rainforest of the country consist of an astounding biodiversity with places where no feet have ever made a footprint. The forest absorbs more carbon dioxide then the country emits and therefore Suriname can be called a carbon neutral country. Carbon dioxide is released in nature when forests are cleared and once released they contribute to climate change. Therefore the policy of the government addressed conservation of the forest and her biodiversity. The government has reserved already 14% of the land surface. The biggest nature reserve is the Central Suriname Nature Reserve. This reserve is 1,6 million hectare large and its huge biodiversity is protected. It is open for scientific research and ecotourism. The origin of all the large fresh water rivers of the country is in there. Conservation International Suriname has therefore done its utmost to list this reserve on the UNESCO World Heritage list.


[1] The Brazilians are mostly garimpeiros and their families, and have established their own neighborhood in the north of Paramaribo.

1 Comment

Posted by on January 1, 2012 in Caribisch Gebied


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