Yasuni National Park (YNP) was created in 1979. This protected area overlaps with the Waorani Ethnic Reserve (WER), which was created in 1990 after 679,220 hectares of land were recognized and granted to the Waorani people.
In 1999, the state declared approximately 700,000 hectares an “Intangible Zone” (IZ) with the goal of protecting uncontacted indigenous communities. This zone shares space with the WER, YNP and the Curaray Kichwa Ethnic Territory.
It’s located in the east-central area of the Ecuadorian Amazon, between the Pastaza and Orellana provinces, and extends from the southern Napo River to the northern Curaray River. With a little over one million hectares between 190-400 m (620-1,310 ft.) above sea level, it’s the largest protected area on Ecuador’s mainland.
An extension of 2,366,182 hectares that includes YNP, WER and the IZ was incorporated into the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1989.
This international protection category, established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), was assigned with the goal of promoting and demonstrating a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere, creating an equilibrium among development, natural resource conservation and local cultural values. To do this, it’s important it accomplish three fundamental functions: (a) conservation; (b) sustainable economic and human development; and (c) support for demonstration, education, training, research and observation projects.
YNP is an example of a wet tropical forest. Inside its boundaries, a large number of ecosystems are protected: from rivers, estuaries and complex swamp systems to vegetation systems that include different lowland and floodplain evergreen varzea and igapó forests, palm tree marshes (moretos) and incredibly diverse terra firme forest.
With over 100,000 insect species, 270 fish species, 139 amphibian species, 121 reptile species, 610 bird species, 204 mammal species and 2,274 vascular plant species per hectare, YNP is recognized as one of the planet’s most megadiverse zones and is part of the Pleistocene forest refuge Napo-Ucayali.