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Moi Enomenga, Ecuador

Photo: Moi Enomenga

Photograph by Stuart Pimm

Moi Vicente Enomenga Mantohue was born near Coca in the Ecuadorian Amazon just as his family and the Huaorani were first contacted by American missionaries. Some of the clans cultivated this contact, but Enomenga’s father decided to find a place that was isolated, where he could continue to hunt, fish, work on his land, and see his children learn about traditional life in the forest.

By the time Enomenga was 18 he had already begun to worry about his people’s rights and land, well aware that the threats that industrial groups brought with them impacted all clans. At this young age he became a leader among the Huaorani, working to unite warring clans into one federation. Enomenga’s campaign helped the Huaorani secure legal title to Yasuní National Park, the largest indigenous territory in Ecuador and a UN biosphere reserve.

Over time Enomenga has also come to believe that ecotourism is a key part of the Huaorani future. It is a means by which his people can receive an income while maintaining the integrity of their culture and conserving their rainforest. He sees this as enhancing the sustainability of their lifestyle and culture while encouraging their efforts to resist the more destructive initiatives of the oil industry. Starting with the first Huaorani Association, his vision evolved from an adventurous expedition to an award-winning ecolodge known as the Huaorani Ecolodge—a unique and powerful cultural tool for the Amazon region.

Today, Enomenga is working on another phase of this project: the Yame Reserve, named after his late father. It will be 136,000 acres and linked to the ecolodge. Supported by the United Nations Development Program, the World Tourism Organization, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, this project is a concrete demonstration of Enomenga’s vision of how conservation, support of local cultures, and ecotourism can go hand in hand.

As tirelessly as he works to preserve his cultural heritage, Enomenga is happiest when he is home with his wife and their young daughter in the Huaorani community of Quehueri’ono.

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