FROM: Scientists Concerned for Yasuní National Park

TO: Ingeniero Lucio Gutiérrez
President of the Republic of Ecuador
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
José Eduardo de Barros Dutra
President and CEO of Petrobras

CC: Ingeniero Eduardo López
Minister of Mining and Energy, Republic of Ecuador
Dr. Fabián Valdivieso
Minister of the Environment, Republic of Ecuador
Sebastiao Manchineri
President, COICA
Leonidas Iza
President, CONAIE
Juan Enomenga
President, ONHAE
Rodrigo de Rato y Figaredo
Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund
The Courts of the Republic of Ecuador, including the Constitutional Tribunal of Ecuador

RE: Proposed Petrobras road into Yasuní National Park

DATE: November 25, 2004

Distinguished Leaders:

We respectfully write you to express our opposition to the approved Petrobras plan to construct a
54-kilometer road from the Napo River into Yasuní National Park to facilitate oil extraction.
Yasuní is the largest national park in Ecuador, and has been internationally recognized for its
importance, receiving designation as a UNESCO Man and The Biosphere Reserve in 1989. The
road will extend 24 kilometers into one of the most intact portions of the park.

We represent leading scientists of Yasuní National Park, and other tropical researchers concerned
for the future of Yasuní. We come from Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Denmark, England, Germany,
Greece, Scotland, Spain, and from across the United States including Puerto Rico. Together we
have well over 100 years of experience conducting research in the park. We have studied many
aspects of its biodiversity — plants, amphibians, insects, birds and mammals — as well as the
impacts of the Maxus Road, which was built in 1994 into northwest Yasuní for petroleum
activities. We have also studied the cultural, economic, and hunting systems of peoples living in
the area.

We feel it is our duty as scientists to inform you of our three central conclusions about Yasuní,
drawn directly from our own and others’ research, and synthesized at the Yasuní Day Research
Symposium in Mindo, Ecuador, October 11–13, 2004.

Our first conclusion is that Yasuní National Park protects a region of extraordinary value in terms
of its biodiversity, cultural heritage, and largely intact wilderness. This region — the Napo Moist
Forests of the Western Amazon — has levels of diversity of many taxonomic groups that are
locally and globally outstanding. For example, with an estimated 2,274 tree and shrub species,
Yasuní protects a large stretch of the world's most diverse tree community. In fact, there are
almost as many tree and shrub species in just one hectare of Yasuní’s forests as in the entire
United States and Canada combined. Yasuní has 567 bird species recorded — 44% of the total
found in the Amazon Basin — making it among the world’s most diverse avian sites. Harboring
approximately 80 bat species, Yasuní appears to be in the world’s top five sites for bat diversity.
With 105 amphibian and 83 reptile species documented, Yasuní National Park appears to have
the highest herpetofauna diversity in all of South America. Yasuní also has 64 species of social
bees, the highest diversity for that group for any single site on the globe. Overall, Yasuní has
more than 100,000 species of insects per hectare, and 6 trillion individuals per hectare. That is
the highest known biodiversity in the world.

Reflecting its biological uniqueness, World Wildlife Fund scientists have declared this region one
of the 200 most important in the world to protect. Yasuní also conserves one of the larger
contiguous tracts of the Amazonian rainforest, a broader region identified as one of the world’s
24 wilderness priority areas. Furthermore, Yasuní and adjacent areas are home to the indigenous
Huaorani, who have relatively uncontacted communities in the park.

Our second conclusion is that Yasuní National Park has major global conservation significance,
for the following reasons. The park is one of the few “strict protected areas” in the whole region
of the Western Amazon (National Parks of IUCN Category II). Only 8.3% of the Amazon
currently falls within any type of protected area. The park harbors a total of 25 mammal species
protected under CITES and/or listed as Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened, as well as
many other “species of concern” in groups such as amphibians, reptiles, birds, and plants. For
example, the park is one of the most important refuges for the Giant Otter (Pteronura
brasiliensis), a Critically Endangered species within Ecuador and Endangered globally. The
Giant Otters use a large part of the Tiputini River and watershed in Yasuní, and one of the
confirmed populations is very close to the construction zone of the proposed Petrobras road.
Yasuní also harbors the Amazonian Manatee (Trichechus inunguis), another Critically
Endangered species within Ecuador that is Vulnerable globally.

If Yasuní is strongly protected, it could be one of the few places to provide long-term protection
to viable populations of these and thousands more Amazonian species in the region. Yasuní is in
a section of the Amazon predicted to experience minimal weather changes from global warming.
The intact forest that Yasuní protects will only increase in value as the surrounding forests are
subjected to climate changes and are destroyed for agriculture and other uses.

Our third conclusion is that the negative impacts of roads have proven largely uncontrollable in
Yasuní National Park and surrounding forests. Yasuní National Park is at the edge of one of 14
major deforestation fronts in the world. The northern Ecuadorian Amazon is being deforested at
a rate of approximately 0.65% per year (40,000 ha per year). At this pace, within the next 150
years, approximately 70% of the region’s forest will be gone. Potentially irreversible impacts on
the region’s biodiversity can be expected much sooner due to habitat fragmentation and
disproportionate clearing of areas with better soils.

Roads are among the main catalysts for the deforestation. A recent study suggests that for every
new kilometer of road built in the region, an average of 120 hectares of forest are lost to
agriculture. Forests near Yasuní are under tremendous land use pressure as a result. For
example, the Canton of Shushufindi lost 19.3% of its forests between 1986 and 2001.
Although Yasuní is supposed to be a “strict protected area,” the building of the Maxus Road into
the park has provided an entry point for migration, colonization, and deforestation. While rates
for these activities are slower within the park boundaries, they are still significant. Analysis of
satellite images spanning the 10 years since the road’s construction illustrate that, if present
trends continue, half of the forest within 2 km of the road will be deforested within 50 years.

Many farms and entire towns have been constructed in the park along the road. Additionally, on
roads just to the north and west of Yasuní, there have been large-scale deforestation and
increasing resource extraction, including illegal logging, which threaten to encroach on the park.
Furthermore, the Maxus Road and oil company activities are causing substantial changes to the
Huaorani’s economic activities, diet, and culture. The road has also led to increased subsistence
and illegal commercial hunting within the park. These documented impacts indicate the proposed
Petrobras road will be a catalyst for migration, colonization, deforestation, illegal logging, and
increased subsistence and illegal hunting inside Yasuní. Thus, the proposed new road represents a
grave threat to the park’s biodiversity and cultural heritage.

Based on these three conclusions, we strongly oppose the construction of a new road into Block
31 and any other parts of the park. We advocate enactment of an Ecuadorian law prohibiting
road-building in national parks for resource extraction, so that the parks maintain their
biodiversity over the long-term.

We recommend that the Ecuadorian government require companies to implement “off-shore”
drilling techniques to access Yasuní and other environmentally sensitive areas, using helicopters
or monorails for transport. The “off-shore” oil drilling model is currently implemented in oceans
around the globe, and is an industry standard with which companies have long-term experience.
These practices are already being implemented in Ecuador’s Block 10 in Amazonian forest near
Yasuní, and were nearly implemented by Shell in the Camisea project in Peru with advice from
the Smithsonian Institution.

We also urge you to fully consider the economic opportunities presented by tourism and research
in Yasuní National Park. Significant revenues and employment are generated by the ecotourism
lodges already operating in the park’s buffer zone and by the national and international
institutions conducting long-term scientific research in Yasuní. The continuation of these
activities depends upon maintaining the park’s biodiversity and natural ecology. While, at current
extraction rates, the oil under Yasuní and its associated revenues will be gone within 50 years, the
park itself and its species could serve as long-term economic resources for Ecuador if safeguarded
from further road-building and associated impacts.

We have written the attached technical advisory report on Yasuní’s biodiversity and conservation
significance, the known impacts of roads, and our formal position. We respectfully inform you
that we are submitting it to both you and the Ecuadorian courts, where there are cases pending on
the Petrobras license for Block 31.

We hope this letter and report will be useful in your decision-making about Yasuní. Those
decisions will have major long-term positive or negative ramifications for the park and the
conservation of biodiversity in the Western Amazon. We would be pleased to provide you with
additional information, and look forward to your reply.


Scientists Concerned for Yasuní National Park
(The institutional affiliations of the following 59 scientists are included
for reference, and do not imply an institutional stance on this issue.)

Patricio Asimbaya Ecuador Programs Coordinator
Finding Species
Republic of Ecuador

Henrik Balslev, Ph.D. Professor
University of Aarhus
Department for Systematic Botany

Amanda Barrera Country Coordinator
Wildlife Conservation Society – Ecuador
Republic of Ecuador

Margot S. Bass Executive Director
Finding Species

Richard Bilsborrow, Ph.D. Research Professor
Carolina Population Center
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Finn Borchsenius, Ph.D. Associate Professor
University of Aarhus
Department for Systematic Botany

Robyn J. Burnham, Ph.D. Associate Professor
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
University of Michigan

Chris Canaday, Ph.D. Board of Directors
Republic of Ecuador

John G. H. Cant, Ph.D. Professor and Chairperson
Department of Anatomy
University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine
Puerto Rico

Maria De Angelo Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Yale University

Abigail Derby Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Anthropology
State University of New York at Stony Brook

J. Larry Dew, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Research
Department of Biological Sciences
University of New Orleans

Anthony Di Fiore, Ph.D. Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
New York University

Youlatos Dionisios, Ph.D. Lecturer
Department of Zoology
School of Biology
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Louise Emmons, Ph.D. Research Associate
Division of Mammals
Smithsonian Institution

Terry L. Erwin, Ph.D. Research Entomologist
Department of Systematic Biology
Smithsonian Institution

Paul Fine, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
University of Michigan

Matt Finer, Ph.D. Staff Ecologist
Save America’s Forests

Margaret Franzen Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Anthropology
Ecology Graduate Group
University of California, Davis

Chris Funk, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow
Integrative Biology
University of Texas

Jonathan Greenberg Ph.D. Candidate
Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing
Ecology Graduate Group
University of California, Davis

Juan Ernesto Guevara Associate Botanical Researcher
Finding Species
Republic of Ecuador
Denise Guillot Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Anthropology
Boston University

Grady Harper, M.Sc. Tropical Forest Mapping Specialist
Conservation International
South America
Paul Herbertson Master of Science Candidate
Geography Research
King’s College London

Flora L. Holt, Ph.D. Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology &
Curriculum in Ecology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jeffrey P. Jorgenson, Ph.D. Wildlife and Conservation Biologist
Republic of Ecuador

Nils Koster Ph.D. Candidate
Nees Institute for Biodiversity of Plants
University of Bonn

Holger Kreft Ph.D. Candidate
Nees Institute for Biodiversity of Plants
University of Bonn

William F. Laurance, Ph.D. Staff Scientist
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Republic of Panama

Manuel J. Macía, Ph.D. Researcher
Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid (CSIC)

Else Magaard, M.Sc. Biologist

Laura K. Marsh, Ph.D. Staff Scientist
Ecology Group
Los Alamos National Laboratory

Shawn McCracken President
TADPOLE Organization

Amy Mertl Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Biology
Boston University

Margaret Metz Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Integrative Biology
University of California, Berkeley

Hugo Mogollon Associate Botanical Researcher
Finding Species &
Fundación para la Conservación de Ecosistemas Amenazados
Republic of Ecuador
Nathan Muchala Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Biology
University of Miami

Jacob Nabe-Nielsen, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow
Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University

Sean O’Donnell, Ph.D. Associate Professor
Psychology (Animal Behavior)
University of Washington

Nigel Pitman, Ph.D. Science Director
Amazon Conservation Association

Simon A. Queenborough Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Plant and Soil Science
University of Aberdeen

Tom Quesenberry Director
Mindo Biological Station
Republic of Ecuador

Claus Rasmussen Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Entomology
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Morley Read, Ph.D. Consulting Biologist
Republic of Ecuador

Galo Zapata Ríos, M.Sc. Wildlife and Conservation Biologist
Republic of Ecuador

David Romo, Ph.D. Co-Director
Tiputini Biodiversity Station
San Francisco University of Quito
Republic of Ecuador

David Roubik, Ph.D. Staff Scientist
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Republic of Panama

Santiago Ron, M.Sc. Ph.D. Candidate
Integrative Biology
The University of Texas at Austin

Rodrigo Sierra, Ph.D. Director
Center for Environmental Studies in Latin America &
Assistant Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment
University of Texas at Austin

Stephanie Spehar Ph.D. Candidate
Anthropology Department
New York University

Jens-Christian Svenning, Ph.D. Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Aarhus

Kelly Swing, Ph.D. Professor of Environmental Sciences &
Founding Director of Tiputini Biodiversity Station
San Francisco University of Quito
Republic of Ecuador

Victor Utreras Wildlife and Conservation Biologist
Republic of Ecuador

Gorky Villa, M.Sc. Botanical Researcher
Yasuní National Park
Republic of Ecuador

Corine Vriesendorp, Ph.D. Conservation Ecologist
Environmental Conservation Program
Field Museum of Natural History

Florian A. Werner Ph.D. Candidate
University of Goettingen

Peter Wetherwax, Ph.D. Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
University of Oregon

S. Joseph Wright, Ph.D. Senior Scientist
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Republic of Panama