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Book source: Suralco Magazine, 1984, vol 16, nr 1.

Subject: [Nature] Tjali Oede Gwamba

'Have Merci with the Wild Animals' or *Operation Gwamba* all began because on Feb 1, 1964 the Suriname River was closed off and the Afobaka Dam were lowered for the reservoir to fill. The Afobaka Lake (aka Prof. Dr. Ir. W.J. van Blommestein) was starting to fill up. Thanks to the former district-commissioner of Brokopondo Drs. Jan Michels, also the secretary of the Suriname Humane Society, animals were saved from drowning. He asked for the assistance of the International Society for the Protection of Animals in Boston, USA for help. The response was positive and in April 1964, J. Robert Smits and John Walsh studied the local situation. A few months later John Walsh returned with the necessary rescue equipment to include tranquilizer guns. Operation Gwamba was a great success and some 10,000 animals were saved and let free away from the lake. The new influx of these animals did not cause any change in the eco-system as the area had become under populated because of centuries hunting by the African-Surinamese. John Walsh makes a rough estimate that besides the 10,000 saved animals, 1000 escaped on their own and some 1,000 drowned. All the saved animals were carefully counted and cataloged and to give an example: 2,104 sloths were saved. They were the largest animal group.Only one house cat was found and saved. Also 167 poisonous and non-poisonous snakes were captured as were seven stray dogs. Three jaguars were saved and let free as many more other animals according to the list. John Walsh is not only proud of having been able to save the 10,000 gwambas with his Surinamese team.

Met dank aan Albert Buys

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