Yasuni National Park, Ecuador

Yasuni National Park Photo
Yasuní National Park is considered a biodiversity “hot spot” and is home to several species of monkey.
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Located in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Yasuní National Park encompasses one of the most biologically diverse forests in the world. The park has a tremendous variety of tree species, as well as a record number of species of birds, bats, insects, frogs, and fish. Yasuní is home to healthy populations of top carnivores like jaguars and harpy eagles, the most powerful bird of prey in the world. Yasuní also shelters more than 20 globally threatened mammal species, including the white-bellied spider monkey and the rare golden-mantled tamarin.

Yasuní National Park is home to some of the last indigenous peoples still living in isolation in the Amazon, the Tagaeri and Taromenane clans of the Waorani. The Waorani and Kichwa ancestral lands sit atop Ecuador’s largest undeveloped oil reserves. The future of the landscape as a whole, as well as that of its flora, fauna, and human inhabitants, depends on the smart, responsible development of the region and the continued protection of the amazing Yasuni Biosphere Reserve.

Fast Facts

  • Yasuní National Park and the adjacent Waorani Ethnic Reserve cover about 6,500 square miles.
  • In just 2.5 acres of the preserve, there are nearly as many tree species as in the U.S. and Canada combined.
  • The rare giant otter lives here.


Biodiversity across Ecuador, and particularly in the Amazon region, is threatened by unsustainable human activities like agricultural expansion, oil exploitation, mining, road construction, and water and air pollution. Hunting and illegal logging persist, jeopardizing the survival of wildlife and native tree species, some of which have already become locally extinct. The continued protection of the forest and waters of Yasuní National Park is crucial, both for wildlife and for indigenous peoples like the Waorani and Kichwa.

WCS Responds

WCS is working to identify the habitat needs of key species, whose conservation will help ensure the protection of the entire landscape. Our work includes gathering baseline biological data on landscape species, including jaguar, woolly monkey, tapir, giant otter, and white-lipped peccary, monitoring their populations and habitats, and evaluating the impact of human activities.

WCS scientists have registered over 80 photographs of jaguars in Yasuní National Park and the adjacent Waorani Ethnic Reserve. Our researchers are reaching out to indigenous communities as allies in conservation, and to ensure that jaguar prey animals are not over-hunted. We also work with our local partners, including indigenous organizations, NGOs, universities, and government institutions to shore up the on-site protection and management of Yasuní and to develop national policies that will support conservation efforts here and beyond.

Currently, WCS focuses on working with local communities. We help strengthen organizations of indigenous groups, so they can secure tenure over their lands, manage their resources sustainably, and improve their quality of life while promoting conservation. We also actively foster the participation of indigenous organizations in managing the protected area and biosphere reserve, and support their role in municipal and provincial planning and management. This is critical because indigenous groups have been traditionally marginalized from decision-making in Ecuador, even though their connection to the ecosystem is so strong.

From the Newsroom

Support for People and Wildlife Merge in Ecuador’s Yasuní National ParkMarch 6, 2013

WCS works with Ecuadorian communities to promote financial and environmental sustainability in the country's Yasuní National Park. Writing for National Geographic NewsWatch, Galo Zapata, WCS's Ecology and Wildlife Management Coordinator for Ecuador, underscores the need for collaborative conservation as economic developments threaten previously untouched wild places.  

One Road Can Change EverythingSeptember 10, 2009

A WCS study reveals that a road constructed by an oil company through Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park became a wildlife market pipeline.

Facebook of the AmazonJanuary 29, 2009

Big cats, wild pigs, and short-eared dogs—oh, my! Photos taken in Ecuador by remote camera traps show jaguars, white-lipped peccaries, and a rare canine.

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