Jaguar Photo
Ecuador's Yasuní Biosphere Reserve provides vital habitat for jaguars and their prey.
Julie Larsen Maher©WCS
Ecuadorian Amazon Photo
The density of species living within the Ecuadorian Amazon is among the highest in the world.
Julie Larsen Maher©WCS
Santiago Espinosa Tests Camera Traps Photo
WCS field biologist Santiago Espinosa tests a hidden camera trap, used to capture elusive jaguars and other wildlife on film.
Julie Larsen Maher©WCS

Named for its location along the equator, Ecuador is among the most biologically diverse countries in the world, in terms of both the number and density of species found in this relatively small country. The country encompasses upper and lower elevations of the Amazon basin. The Ecuadorian Amazon provides habitat for the threatened black caiman, giant river otter, white-lipped peccary, jaguar, and lowland tapir. Development pressures, such as the construction of infrastructure for oil exploration and extraction and timber exploitation are taking a toll on both the country’s wildlife and its indigenous culture.

Fast Facts

  • The Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, a national park providing important habitat for jaguars and their prey, including white-lipped peccaries, is also home to numerous indigenous communities who participate, to varying degrees, in the peccary’s conservation.
  • Among the indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon are the Cofán, Waorani, Kichwa, and Shuar.
  • With a population of about 1,500, the Waorani are the most traditional group and practice subsistence hunting in large expanses of lowland forest. However, they are rapidly losing many cultural traditions due to increased contact with modern technology.


Wildlife and wild landscapes across Ecuador—particularly in the Amazon region—face threats of unplanned colonization, over-exploitation of natural resources, and water and air pollution. Hunting and illegal logging have caused local extinctions of wildlife and tree species in many forests. The impacts of oil exploration are widespread and will increase if the oil industry accelerates its production activities without mitigating its environmental impacts.

WCS Responds

In Ecuador, WCS participates in landscape-scale conservation at the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve. At Yasuní, we conduct wildlife research and partner with local NGOs, universities, grassroots organizations, government institutions, and oil companies to promote conservation. WCS also helps train members of the Kichwa and Waorani indigenous groups in conservation science and works to conserve wildlife through community-based management plans. WCS research efforts focus on the black caiman, giant river otter, jaguar, white-lipped peccary, and lowland tapir.

WCS’s Amazon-Andes Conservation program works to protect seven massive Amazonian landscapes in five countries: one in Ecuador, two each in Bolivia and Brazil, and one each in Peru and Venezuela. Together, these landscapes comprise almost 86,000 square miles, or 3 percent of the Amazon Basin.

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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