September 11, 2009

Single road changes life in national park

Hunters are emptying Ecuador's Yasuni National Park of wildlife via a single road built by oil companies, scientists say.

Communities existing inside and around the park are changing their customs to a lifestyle of commercial hunting, said Esteban Suarez, lead author of a Wildlife Conservation Society study.

The road is being used to carry large numbers of peccaries, tapirs, monkeys and other species to markets in more populated areas, Suarez said in the journal Animal Conservation.

The commercial wild meat market emerged shortly after the oil company Maxus Ecuador built the 92-mile road in 1992, said anthropologist Avecita Chicchon, a conservation society director.

The road's existence encouraged members of the Waorani tribe to abandon their semi-nomadic lifestyle, Chicchon said. Today, three Waorani communities live along the road and use firearms to kill animals rather than blowguns and other traditional weapons, Chicchon said.