The video above is from the January 2013 iPad edition of National Geographic magazine.

Yasuní National Park, Ecuador, is a rain forest undergoing radical change. Exploring the region’s oil reserves has threatened many native species and habitats, as well as the lifestyle of the indigenous Waorani people.

In this video, photojournalists from National Geographic magazine document the current state of Yasuní National Park by interacting with the environment, as well as the people who have an interest in it.

In the words of photographer Ivan Kashinsky, “It’s a really important story, and one that needs to be told.”

Each of the five photographers who took part in this Yasuní bioblitz focused on a unique aspect of the national park. Watch the video or use the video’s scroll feature to listen to the photographers talk about their part in the project.

  • (00:39) Tim Laman photographed diurnal animals—those that are active in the daytime, such as monkeys.
  • (01:27) Steve Winter used camera traps to capture images of more elusive animals, such as jaguars.
  • (02:00) David Liittschwager set up his camera to mimic a microscope, in order to photograph some of the park’s smallest inhabitants, such as insects, spiders, and worms.
  • (02:38) Karla Gachet and Ivan Kashinsky documented the changing community and lifestyle of the Waorani people.

Strategies for Using This Video

Before watching the video
Communicate with students facts about the video.

Before watching the video
To prepare for class discussion after the video, have students take notes on the habitats and species of Yasuní National Park.

  • What mammals do they expect the photographers to find?
  • What insects?
  • What aquatic species?
  • What animals do they think will be easy for photographers to find and photograph? What animals may be difficult to capture on film?

After watching the video
Discuss the questions posed in the “Questions” tab.

Project Idea
Have students document the environment in and around the classroom or school by collecting photos, video, and notes. Encourage students to connect with different kinds of people at the school, such as administrators and staff. If you want to add in a focus on biodiversity, see this activity on conducting a biodiversity investigation.

  1. Tim Laman photographed diurnal animals, those that are active during daylight hours. What animals do you think Tim could have photographed if he focused on nocturnal animals, which are active at night?

    • Answer

      Answers will vary! Most large animals in Yasuní National Park are nocturnal. Some of these include big cats (such as jaguars and ocelots), bats, frogs and toads, sloths, rats, and deer. Some of Yasuní’s animals can be either diurnal or nocturnal, such as birds, snakes, anteaters, and lizards.

  2. Photographers Karla Gachet and Ivan Kashinsky worked with the Waorani people. The Waorani have lived in and around Yasuní National Park for centuries. Driven by oil-related development projects in Yasuní, the Waorani community is experiencing rapid change. What changes do you think development will bring to the Waorani?

    • Answer

      Answers will vary! There will be positive and negative consequences to development projects. Positive changes may include greater access to sophisticated heath care and higher education. Development will also increase the technology (such as electricity) and infrastructure (such as paved roads) available to the Waorani.

      Negative changes may include destruction of the local environment, including the homes and vehicles (such as canoes) currently used by the Waorani. Many Waorani may have to permanently relocate from land occupied by their families for generations. Another negative consequence of development may be the weakening of the Waorani culture. Language or dialect, cuisine, clothing, and religious beliefs may fade as the Waorani integrate into mainstream Ecuadorian society.

  3. This project involved five photographers documenting four major aspects of Yasuní National Park. If you were a National Geographic editor, what other aspects would you add to the project?

    • Answer

      Answers will vary! A photographer could focus on aquatic species (such as fish, caimans, and crabs) or birds (such as parrots, toucans, and ducks). Another photographer may want to document the rain forest’s vast array of plants, such as fruit trees, berry bushes, vines, and shrubs.


a field study in which groups of scientists and citizens study and inventory all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.

camera trap

remote-activated camera that relies on changes in light or motion to automatically take a photo.


active during the day.


difficult to capture.


air containing a large amount of water vapor.


characteristic to or of a specific place.


person who reports and distributes news.


to copy another organism's appearance or behavior.

national park

geographic area protected by the national government of a country.


area of tall, mostly evergreen trees and a high amount of rainfall.

adjective, noun

people and culture native to the Amazon and other river basins of eastern Ecuador.