Mount Roraima and the Pakaraima Tepui Plateaus (South America)

Mount Roraima and the Pakaraima Tepui Plateaus (South America)

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 08:50

Mount Roraima is the highest of the Pakaraima chain of tepui plateaus in South America. Its summit area is bounded on all sides by cliffs and serves as the tripoint of Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil. The tabletop mountains of Roraima are considered to be the oldest geological formations on Earth.

Mount Roraima is the highest of the Pakaraima chain of tepui plateaus in South America. Its summit area is bounded on all sides by cliffs rising 1,300 ft. (400 m) and serves as the triple border point of Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil. The tabletop mountains of Roraima are considered to be the oldest geological formations on Earth, dating back some two billion years to the Precambrian era.

Mount Roraima lies on the Guiana Shield in the southeastern corner of Venezuela's 30,000 sq km (12,000 sq mi) Canaima National Park forming the highest peak of Guyana's Highland Range. The highest point in Guyana and the highest point of the Brazilian state of Roraima lie on the plateau but Venezuela and Brazil have higher mountains elsewhere. The mountain's highest point is Laberintos del Norte.

Since long before the arrival of European explorers, the mountain has held a special significance for the indigenous people of the region and it is central to many of their myths and legends. In Brazil, the Monte Roraima National Park lies within the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Territory.

Although the steep sides of the plateau make it difficult to access, it was the first recorded major tepui to be climbed: Sir Everard im Thurn walked up a forested ramp in December 1884 to scale the plateau. This is the same route hikers take today.

Many of the species found on Roraima are unique to the tepui plateaus with two local endemic plants found on Roraima summit. Plants such as pitcher plants (Heliamphora), Campanula (a bellflower), and the rare Rapatea heather are commonly found on the escarpment and summit. It rains almost every day of the year. Almost the entire surface of the summit is bare sandstone, with only a few bushes (Bonnetia roraimœ) and algae present. Low, scanty and bristling vegetation is also found in the small, sandy marshes that intersperse the rocky summit. Most of the nutrients that are present in the soil are washed away by torrents that cascade over the edge, forming some of the highest waterfalls in the world.

There are multiple examples of unique fauna atop Mount Roraima. Oreophrynella quelchii, commonly called the Roraima Bush Toad, is a diurnal toad usually found on open rock surfaces and shrubland. It is a species of toad in the family Bufonidae and breeds by direct development. The species is currently listed as vulnerable and there is a need for increased education among tourists to make them aware of the importance of not handling these animals in the wild. Close population monitoring is also required, particularly since this species is known only from a single location. The species is protected in Monumento Natural Los Tepuyes in Venezuela, and Parque Nacional Monte Roraima in Brazil.