Yasuni National Park in Ecuadorian Amazonia is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, more plant species in its million hectares of swamps, jungle and marshes that the whole of North America combined. The Pygmy Marmoset — the world’s smallest monkey — sloths and giant otters are among the threatened species in the park.
Yasuni is also home to an estimated 200 members of one of the last nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes on Earth. The Huaorani fiercely value their independence and have chosen to live in isolation.
Beneath this ecological wonder lies a threat that could destroy it forever, an estimated 846 million barrels of crude oil, in three immense fields, known collectively as ITT. Faced with an extraordinary dilemma the Ecuadoreans have come up with a novel response. By creating the Yasuni ITT Trust Fund, they are asking the world to pay to save the forest with the understanding that if US$3.5 billion can be raised over a ten-year period (about half the total estimated value of the crude in the ground when the idea was launched), then Yasuni will be spared. Administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with board members from major donating countries and organisations, the fund was first launched in 2007 at the United Nations General Assembly, where it met with a standing ovation. www.yasuni-itt.gob.ec