Friday Foto


Rawr! Today's Friday Foto is a pic of a jaguar, caught by a camera trap in 2009 in Machintsaiqui in the Ecuadorian Amazon region.

Thanks to Cofán park rangers' efforts to patrol both Cofán ancestral territories and Ecuador's national parks, beautiful animals like these are less threatened by illegal poaching and their forest homes are kept intact. Keep our ranger program going by donating!

Friday Foto

In today's Friday Foto, Cofán women taking a Spanish course in Quito visit the Presidential Palace, among other historical sites, and pose with the presidential guards. Cofan women

One skill we have determined to be crucial for inclusion in conservation work and advocacy, not to mention communication with government entities and national institutions is the ability to speak Spanish. Beginning in 2007, our Spanish classes for women have involved study and taking classes in Quito, including excursions into the city so the women have the chance to use the language. These classes contribute to an increase in self-esteem and empowerment, and have resulted in the improved capacity and greatly increased participation by the women in Cofán politics and overall conservation management.

How to make a Cofán backpack

Watch Carlos as he shows us how they use a leaf from a certain palm in Cofán territory in Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve in the Ecuadorian Amazon to make a comfortable (really, it is!) backpack. The Cofán use these packs when they need to carry heavier loads, and they can also be lined with bigger leaves on the inside so they are able to carry smaller things. The strap goes either across your forehead or your collarbone, and they last about a week. Talk about being green!

Here is the finished product:


Friday Foto

grey-breasted mountain toucan
grey-breasted mountain toucan

Take a peek at this photo of a grey-breasted mountain toucan enjoying a snack in the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve, one of the areas patrolled by Cofán rangers, taken by Leo, an experienced Cofán ranger (and a good photographer!). This species of toucan is found in high, humid forest and has declined due to habitat loss.

Support the Cofán rangers and their work to save beautiful birds like this toucan by donating on our website.

18-year anniversary of battling Chevron

November 3rd, 2011, marked the 18th year in which the Cofán have been fighting Chevron, on a legal battleground, for the legacy of contamination the oil company left in its wake since Texaco started operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon in the 1960s. Amazon Watch's Mitch Anderson went to the Cofán community Dureno recently and wrote about his experience on the NGO's blog, and also recorded the following video:!

"Lago Agrio, Ecuador – The sprawl of scorched pavement and crumbling cement buildings in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. This city, once a small oil boom town founded by Texaco in the late 1960s (and given, appropriately, the name "Sour Lake" after Texaco's hometown in Texas) is now a bewildering and feverish mess of oil workers, drug-traffickers, street children, shop owners, impoverished farmers, and indigenous people stripped of their ancestral territory and forced to survive, as the Cofán people say, in the kokama kuri sindipa ande (the white man's world of money).

Just several days ago, at the edge of the pavement on the outskirts of the city, where the Cofán people have recovered (yes, purchased) a narrow tract of their ancestral territory, I spent the afternoon with Marina Aguinda Lucitante, an elder of the tribe. She was born along the banks of the Agua Rico river. She was married at a young age to a Cofán Shaman, Guillermo Quenama, who died, she says, "because the oil company poisoned him with alcohol." She remembers when the forest was filled with animals. And she remembers when the river ran black with crude oil. She seems to remember everything – and all of her memories are divided: Life before the oil company and life after the oil company.

It has been nearly 50 years since Texaco began oil operations here in the northeastern Ecuadorian Amazon. Nearly 50 years since the death of Marina's husband, Guillermo Quenama. And over that time, the impacts of Texaco's (now Chevron's) reckless pump and dump oil operations have been well documented. The abandoned oil pits littered throughout the rainforest, the billions of gallons of toxic wastewater dumped into rivers and streams, the felled primary forest, the noxious gases rising into the sky from 24 hour-a-day flaring, the crude oil sprayed on the roads, the towering black plumes of smoke from spilt and burning crude, the resultant public health crisis racking indigenous and mestizo farmer communities, including cancer, spontaneous miscarriages, and birth defects.

But what has not been documented – what cannot possibly be understood by anyone who has not been here to endure the last 50 years of oil operations – is how the oil conquest has affected the spiritual life, the inner world, of those who live here.

Today, which marks the 18th anniversary of the monumental legal struggle against Chevron for massive environmental crimes in the Amazon rainforest, Marina has asked me to share with the world a song that she has been carrying within her for these last 50 years. Marina is one of the last Cofán women who remember how to sing in the way of her ancestors. This is her song."

Taking inventory, Amazon-style

Hola! In 2008, scientists from the Field Museum of Chicago came to Ecuador to carry out a Rapid Biological Inventory in the Cuyabeno region of Ecuador and the Gueppi region of Peru. The goal of these inventories, both biological and social, "is to catalyze effective action for conservation in threatened regions of high biological diversity and uniqueness." These inventories don't try to produce an exhaustive list of species, but they identify important biological communities in the site and determine if these communities are significant in a regional or global context.

After the results were in, the scientists found a "spectacular" amount of biodiversity in this region, among which were 13 species of plants and fish in Ecuador completely new to science. And in only one month! Imagine what other surprises are hidden in the rainforest!

Here is the first in a series of videos about the RBI #20

To see more videos, visit the Field Museum's YouTube site.

To read more about the RBIs, please visit the Field Museum's website.






Friday Foto

Today's Friday Foto features one of the Cofán's greatest assets in their constant battle to keep their territories pristine and protected: the children. We know that without a strong next generation of Cofáns to take over the management of over one million acres of forest, the vast expanses of trees, rivers, plants, and animals will not survive. Cofan kidsLook at those smiles!

Real Conservation: The concept of the Campaign for 5000


Imagine the forests of Ecuador, at the center of the Earth: verdant, lush primary forest, wild, pristine rivers, forbidding swamplands, and several thousand species of plants and animals, where the Amazon Basin stretches toward the sky on the slopes of the Andes Mountains and its multiple volcanoes. This territory is known by scientists as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, and has been the home of the Cofán, among the oldest surviving indigenous cultures in the Ecuadorian Amazon, for centuries.

Cofan Rangers
Cofan Rangers

Around 1,000,000 acres of this forest is being protected at this very moment by dedicated Cofan rangers. These Cofan-managed and Cofan-protected territories provide certain key environmental services, including climate change control, carbon sequestration, preservation of water cycles and water purity, and biodiversity conservation, all of which are ESSENTIAL to the health of Ecuador’s various ecosystems.

I have been working for several years now on trying to develop strategies and systems into a consolidated “product” that will appeal to a market in which these environmental services will be funded by corporate and national level initiatives concerned with off-setting the damages they are doing to the environment. However, at this point in time this model continues to be an attractive dream. The distances between the true environmental services providers such as the Cofan and the entities that could (and should) be paying for said services are still far too great, legally, politically, and ideologically, for such agreements to function.

So, in a search for alternatives, we began looking at private interactions, whereby a relatively large block of people put aside a relatively small amount of money per month to cover the recurring costs of conserving a significant amount of forest.

But here’s the catch: what I am after is that this NOT be viewed as a well-meaning charitable contribution to help some poor indigenous group out in the Amazon. What I am trying to give birth to is a new way to deal directly, practically, and effectively with our individual impacts on the environment. Could we perhaps call it a “Conservation Cooperative?”

Here’s the concept: A partnership of 6,000 people- 5,000 donors and 1,000 Cofáns- who are dedicated to taking care of and providing good management for these 1,000,000 acres of rain forests, but also for all the areas of influence in which those six thousand people live, work and enjoy. This partnership’s primary focus will be the 1,000,000 acres, but the key word is “conservation” throughout the group’s range of influence.


This partnership, including as it will young and old, Americans, Ecuadorians, Cofans, and others thoughout the word, will obviously have a variety of levels of participation-

  • from the Cofán boy who is learning how to fish correctly;
  • to the grade school girl in New Jersey who is doing a report on the Amazon;
  • to the business man who has no time to deal with anything outside the office but who gives some money as his contribution to the 1,000,000 acres;
  • to the retiree who lends time and effort in order to recruit new members;
  • to the college computer whiz who helps out with a eye-catching multimedia report;
  • to the Cofán ranger who is facing off with an irate miner;
  • to the Ecuadorian politician who is actively, passionately defending the environmental laws;
  • and on and on….

The trick of what we are trying to do is create a true, committed community whose efforts are focused on a particular piece of wilderness. If this works, we can offer this same model for the Zona Reservada in Peru, with the Secoyas, Huitotos, and other groups there, plus to others who will buy into those territories as their primary focus.

The bottom line is that, seeing as the big world of rich governments and multinational corporations and the UN and all the rest can’t get their act together to truly deal with the needs and complexities of real life conservation and global climate change amelioration, let’s try to organize at a grass-roots community level to do it. Let’s create virtual communities based on real people dealing with real land areas and real issues and in this way cut through all the layers of bureaucratic garbage and endless discussions and get straight down to real conservation.

And as I say, if we can pull this off, it will be a model which can be replicated widely, with highly tangible impacts. Our particular group’s contribution is focused on our particular one million acres, not by way of excluding other areas, but to maximize the community’s effectiveness. Can you imagine though the effect that would be generated if this model were to be duplicated time and time again on a global scale? The number we are postulating, 6,000, is sufficient enough to cover our needs, but small enough to still be interactive and maintain the personal connection which is so vital to the concept of community.


So that’s the outline of the concept. Where do we go next? That part is up to all of you.

The good news is that the question of how we, together, can truly impact the environment – that part is NOT a challenge. Here we are talking about a real life solution to the real life frustration of how do I, as an individual, make a difference?

  • How can I, producing carbon pollution via my use of car, airplane, air conditioning, etc., really do anything meaningful to mitigate these impacts?
  • How do I, wanting to affect environmental legislation on a global level, really make a difference?
  • How do I, concerned about biodiversity issues worldwide, deal with saving species?

Here, as we form our Conservation Cooperative, we have a real-life way of dealing with these issues, one that will enable each and every member of the community to tangibly experience the impacts of their work.

So, let’s do it! Let’s grow our community to 6,000! Let’s get the word out across social networks, in the media, and via simple word of mouth, and most of all, it will require YOUR feedback, input, and help in order for this seed of a concept to grow and become a real life solution.

It all starts here: Campaign for 5000.

Randy Borman


Gente Invisible de la Selva

Please check out Xavier Méndez and Andrés Viera's documentary on the Cofán, Gente Invisible de la Selva (Invisible People of the Jungle). The documentary follows Isidro Lucitante, a Cofán who lives close to the point where the Bermejo and San Miguel rivers come together, close to the Ecuador-Colombia border, on a journey through the Cofán culture, their myths, way of life and socio-environmental problems they encounter living in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Junto a Isidro Lucitante, Cofán que vive cerca de la unión de los ríos Bermejo y San Miguel (frontera Ecuador-Colombia), emprenderemos un viaje por la cultura cofán, sus mitos, su forma de vida y los problemas socio-ambientales que viven en la Amazonía ecuatoriana.

Enjoy Part 1 and Part 2 of Isidro's journey.