The Ecuadorian government have got their first drips of oil from an untouched corner of the Amazon rainforest.
Yasuní National Park in eastern Ecuador is one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. However, it also lies on top of 40 percent of Ecuador's proven oil reserves – around 1.67 billion barrels. After massive protests against the oil fields of Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini and months of pumping, the state-owned oil company Petroamazonas have finally drawn barrels of oil for the first time.
"Today, a new era is beginning, a new horizon for all Ecuadorians," Vice President Jorge Glas proclaimed at a ceremony at the Tiputini oil field on Wednesday, AFP reports.
On the other hand, environmentalists and groups representing indigenous rights groups were not so pleased. Along with the immense amounts of biodiversity native to the area – including more than 150 amphibian species and nearly 600 bird species – the area is populated with numerous indigenous peoples. The nomadic Tagaeri-Taromenane are literally surrounded by oil drilling sites, so much so that Amazon Watch say their very existence is hanging in the balance.
"This is the worst imaginable place to be drilling for oil. The world can simply not afford to lose a place like Yasuní," Kevin Koenig, Ecuador program director for indigenous rights group Amazon Watch, said in a statement. "At a time when scientists affirm we need to keep more than 80 percent of all crude reserves in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change, this is the last place on Earth they should be drilling. Many species in Yasuní survived the last ice age. Whether they survive the oil age remains to be seen."
According to Amazon Watch, California processed 60 percent of Ecuador's oil export last year, and it’s very likely that is where this oil will end up too.
Huaorani man in the Waorani Reserve In Yasuni National Park. Ammit Jack/Shutterstock