National Geographic photographers spend time documenting the diversity of life in Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park. The ecologically and culturally rich area is at risk from an increasing demand for the large natural reserves of oil stored underground.
  • 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. 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.

    Project Idea
    Document the environment in and around your home or school by collecting photos, video, and notes about the people, plants, animals, and things around you. Create a photo or video essay to organize your 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?

      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?

      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?

      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.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    bioblitz Noun

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

    Encyclopedic Entry: bioblitz
    camera trap Noun

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

    diurnal Adjective

    active during the day.

    elusive Adjective

    difficult to capture.

    humid Adjective

    air containing a large amount of water vapor.

    indigenous Adjective

    characteristic to or of a specific place.

    Encyclopedic Entry: indigenous
    journalist Noun

    person who reports and distributes news.

    mimic Verb

    to copy another organism's appearance or behavior.

    national park Noun

    geographic area protected by the national government of a country.

    rainforest Noun

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

    Encyclopedic Entry: Rainforest
    Waorani adjective, noun

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