A dangerous flirt

Ecuador can be divided topographically into four different zones: the Galapagos Islands, the lowlands of the coast, the small middle-band of the Andeas and the area of the tropical rain forest in the Amazon Basin of the Oriente. Owing to this variety of biospheres in a comparatively small region, Ecuador is one of the most specious countries worldwide with more than 20.000 species of plants (Northamerica: 17.000), more than 300 species of mammals and more than 1600 species of birds. At the same time, Ecuador has the highest deforestation rate in South America: 95% of the forests in the western lowlands have been transformed into land for agriculture, cattle breeding and mining. Nowadays, about 18% of the land area are in one of the 40 protected zones, among them 9 National Parks. Nevertheless, large parts of the rain forest, and with them a vast variety of unaffected indigene cultures, are threatened by the further invasion of the big oil companies (e.g. ChevronTexaco), especially since the recent discoveries of oil occurences. In this context, the case of the Yasuní National Park raised some global awareness.