Volunteer in the Amazon - Rainforest - Ecuador
Green, mysterious, and unexplored - it was a conquistador’s dream for Gonzalo Pizzaro and Francisco de Orellana, who followed the rivers down from the high Andes in 1538, searching for El Dorado, the lost city of gold ….
The Amazon and its tributaries begin on the eastern side of the Andes Mountain Range, and drain snow and rain from half a continent into the distant Atlantic Ocean. Today, despite deforestation pressures and other human influences, the Amazon River Basin still contains approximately 6.7 million km2 of rainforest, an area almost 2/3 the size of the United States (including Alaska!). The Amazon Basin is a vast natural tropical area, more than half of which is located within the borders of Brazil. The basin also covers parts of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Guyana.
The Amazon Rain Forest has all the typical attributes of a tropical environment. The weather is hot, humid and rainy, with an average rainfall of over 200 cm (80 inches) per year. These rainforests contain a huge variety of diverse biomes, many of which contain unique species not found anywhere else on the globe. This vast region is home to about 2.5 million insect species, tens of thousands of plants, some 2,000 kinds of birds and mammals, and many different species of amphibians and reptiles. Among the most commonly know animals are such different species as jaguar, anaconda, howler monkey, macaws, toucans, tarantulas and river dolphins. One-in-ten of all plant and animal species in the world inhabit the Amazon Rainforest. One-in-five of all the birds in the world live in the rainforests of the Amazon. The diversity of plant species is the highest on Earth; some experts estimate that one square kilometer (1 km2 ) of rainforest may contain over 75,000 types of trees and 150,000 species of higher plants. One square kilometer of Amazon rainforest can contain an incredible bio-mass of more than 90,000 tons of living plants!
Several different indigenous ethnic groups inhabit this vast, complex region. Some of the better-known groups include the Huaoranis, Shuar, Ashuar, Quichua, Siona, Secoya, Zapara, Cofan, and Quijos. Many other traditional cultures are woven throughout the complicated ecosystems of the Amazon Basin.
But behind this incredible natural and cultural diversity lies a stark reality. Even though the indigenous peoples live in an area with a bewildering array of natural resources and opportunities, many of the local people remain in relative poverty. The incredible natural biodiversity is threatened by oil exploration, commercial logging, road development, forest clearing for agriculture, and traditional subsistence farming. The Amazon region is home to a number of organizations dedicated to preventing the deforestation and destruction, and to creating sustainable economic development for the indigenous people. The support, knowledge-sharing, and participation of volunteers are essential contributions to that help these projects reach their common goals.