Along Ecuador’s eastern border with Peru sits Yasuní National Park (YNP). At close to one million hectares, Yasuní is the largest expanse of protected lowland tropical forest in the country. Designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989, the park is one of the world’s biodiversity jewels, containing at least 170 species of mammals, well over 596 bird species, more than 382 fish species, and a fantastic variety of flora.

Yasuní National Park and its surrounding area are also home to the last representatives of the Waorani and Kichwa ethnic communities, which have co-management agreements with the Ecuadorian government over land within YNP. If Yasuní’s unique biodiversity is to be conserved, the Ecuadoran government, conservation organizations, and other local stakeholders must work in tandem with these groups.

This is especially so given the growing pressure in Ecuador to exploit its vast natural petroleum and gas deposits. The construction of roads to facilitate energy exploration has provided access to previously wild areas. While it is possible to manage access to oil roads in order to reduce the movement of indigenous people into new areas (and the deforestation that often goes with it), these roads can have significant impacts on wildlife and their ecosystems.