Research project on caimans

2019
2021
Etude sur les caïmans
Searching for a VHF transmitter signal, Nouragues National Nature Reserve, French Guiana© Mangione R.
Etude sur les caïmans
Nouragues National Nature Reserve, French Guiana © Beau F.
Etude sur les caïmans
Habitat of the grey caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus), Nouragues National Nature Reserve, French Guiana © Lemaire J.
Etude sur les caïmans
Grey caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus), Nouragues National Nature Reserve, French Guiana © Pasukonis A.
For some time, there has been a scientific consensus around the notion of a mass extinction of animals due to ecological damage caused by human activity. In this worrying context, a group of researchers is undertaking a study of the smooth-fronted caiman, a little-known reptile native to French Guiana, in order to collect data to better protect these rare animals. By bolstering our knowledge through such research, we can prevent the decline of the species and help to preserve the ecosystem as a whole.

In the heart of French Guiana, the Nouragues Natural Reserve is a vast protected zone of some 105,000 hectares. Within the reserve, 9,000 hectares have been made available to researchers to conduct studies of its remarkable biodiversity. This unique context is currently hosting a scientific research mission, supported by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès as part of its Biodiversity & Ecosystems programme, studying the little-known, forest-dwelling smooth-fronted caiman.

Entitled “The Effects of Anthropic Trace-element Disturbances on the Ecology,  Ecotoxicology and Physiology of Caimans in French Guiana”, this research project seeks to improve our understanding of the behaviour of this species, to learn more about its environment in order to support conservation efforts, and to study potential sources of harmful contaminants. Caimans are at the top of the food chain, and thus accumulate in their bodies all of the pollutants present in the prey and plants further down the chain. This makes the smooth-fronted caiman an important object of study and a precious indicator of the levels of mercury contamination linked to illegal gold mining, which is a major threat to the region’s ecosystem.

This three-year study (2019-2022) is led by Jérémy Lemaire, PhD researcher at the University of La Rochelle, in collaboration with the two institutions hosting his doctoral project, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Together with a small team of fellow researchers, Lemaire carries out regular field trips to measure the population of caimans, observe their behaviour and carry out sampling and analysis. The findings of this study will help to offset the impact of illegal gold mining and inform measures to protect this rare species.

Disciplines
Biodiversity
France
In the heart of French Guiana, the Nouragues Natural Reserve allows researchers to carry out studies of the region’s remarkable biodiversity.
Caimans offer scientists a precious indicator of the levels of mercury contamination linked to illegal gold mining.
The findings of the study will inform measures to protect this rare species.

Informations