Ecuador: Tiputini Biodiversity Station near Yasuni Reserve

I just returned from another excursion to the remote tropical
rainforest of the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in eastern Ecuador. I
was heading a group of eight science educators –– those who directly
train students to become science teachers –– from different
universities in the nation. I was awestruck once again by the beauty,
the ecological stories and mysteries, the astounding richness of life
there. But I also returned more concerned than ever.

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This remote region of the northwest Amazon is one of the most profound
biological treasures of the earth, featuring an astounding variety of
plants, fungi and animals. More than 10 species of monkeys pass
through the 1,500-acre sanctuary. Nearly three dozen palm species in
the region are known with many other plants yet unidentified. The
numbers of frogs and other amphibians exceeds most any other place on
earth. The Tiputini River is speculated to have more than 2,000
species of fish. And ongoing images from the National Geographic
Society-supported “camera trap project” at Tiputini show that eight
individual jaguars pass through the area regularly. This haven for
life in all its grandeur is in part due to Tiputini’s proximity to the
Yasuni National Park, which at 9,820 square kilometers is roughly
equal to the size of Vermont. Directly across the river, this vast
region of over one million acres features no roads and little or no

Indeed, just to get to Tiputini can take several hours by
motorized canoe. The threat to this region and its array of crucial
ecosystems is mainly the encroaching petroleum companies. With oil now
discovered below Yasuni, several petroleum operations seek to expand
and drill in this wilderness. Already the noise of the oil pumping
about 12 kilometers from Tiputini can be heard, eerily mixing in with
the whooping calls of frogs, the chattering of cicadas and the
lion-like roars of the howler monkeys. With oil exploration come not
only the potential of spills and damaging river boat traffic but
significant removal of forest land, creating fragmented habitats.
Stored underground methane must be burnt off, often resulting in a
24/7 flame in the forest that kills uncountable numbers of insects so
critical to food webs and pollination.

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