QUITO, Ecuador, January 12, 2007 (ENS) – To protect indigenous groups who voluntarily isolate themselves from the modern world, the Ecuadorian government has declared a two million acre zone in an oil-rich region of the Amazon off limits to oil development and logging.
The Presidential Decree signed last week by outgoing President Alfredo Palacio is intended to protect the core territory of the last two groups of indigenous peoples in Ecuador known to live in isolation.
Both the Tagaeri and Taromenane are renowned for their giant spears and regarded as among the fiercest tribes on Earth. There is a bloody history of encounters between these two groups and invading oil company workers, loggers, and colonists.
The Presidential Decree defines the boundaries of the so-called Intangible Zone, an area larger than the state of Delaware.
Located in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Intangible Zone overlaps the southern part of Yasuni National Park, which despite its park status is open to oil development.
The Yasuni National Park region is widely recognized by scientists as one of the most biodiverse on Earth.
President Palacio signed the long-awaited Presidential Decree less than two weeks before President-elect Rafael Correa comes to power. The Ecuadorian Environment Minister Anita Alban, who will remain in this post in the Correa administration, and Energy Minister Ivan Rodriguez also both signed off on the Decree.
“President Palacio’s signing of this Presidential Decree was a brave move on his part. Hopefully the new government will build upon this to create an area that will truly protect the Tagaeri and Taromenani people by prohibiting oil extraction in the buffer zone,” said Brian Keane, director of the international indigenous peoples rights organization Land is Life.
“The signing of this Decree is a hard-fought victory in favor of the protection of peoples in voluntary isolation,” said Eduardo Pichilingue of the Ecuadorian NGO EcoCiencia, referring to the long, difficult process of finalizing the Intangible Zone.
The Intangible Zone was initially created in 1999, but it took eight years to define the zone’s controversial boundaries, which are surrounded by untapped oil fields.
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