For the Indigenous communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, preserving heritage and environment goes hand in hand. This is particularly prominent for those living within Yasuní National Park, a part of the upper Amazon basin that is widely known to be one of the greatest biodiversity regions, per square metre, on the planet. Brimming with millions of species of plant, insect, bird and mammal, this is a place that is vital to the survival of global biodiversity – which has declined by nearly 70% in the last 55 years.
“It’s crucial to understand that we are situated within the Yasuní National Park, which covers an extensive area of approximately 21,000 hectares,” says Alex Aguinda, a member of Añangu Community and tour guide with Anakonda Amazon Cruises. “In the past, many indigenous people were [nomads], seeking new territories where they could cultivate essential elements of our diet and find suitable places for hunting and fishing. This is how the foundation of our community took shape long before the establishment of Yasuní National Park. Now, as part of this protected area, we are working together to preserve our homeland.”
For the Añangu people, eco-tourism opportunities offered by Anakonda Amazon Cruises has brought the financial means to “learn, teach and preserve” culture. A stable income that goes straight to local infrastructure means investment in education and employment opportunities. Perhaps even more importantly, however, it presents the means to preserve essential natural habitats through generational know-how – a process western consumerist culture is still grappling with.
“We utilise our skills and ancestral knowledge once used for hunting, to now focus on conservation,” continued Alex. “We must defend our [land] against illegal loggers, deforestation, illegal hunters, and, at times, the oil industry. I believe the positive aspect of these [eco-tourism] projects lie in their contributions to preserving our culture, customs, and native languages so [we can look after our land].
“The best way to protect and support our community is by visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon and becoming aware of the magical and well preserved ecosystem.”