Six women of various ages are part of the local monitoring group in the Kichwa community of Zancudo Cocha. As they get ready to hop into the canoe and head out on the monthly installation of camera traps in different areas of their territory, they bring with them cassava chicha,
pop-corn, and a pineapple to share later amongst the group. In a fast pit-stop by the river bank, Leonela rapidly jumps off and heads to her house. She comes out with a blender that will later be used to prepare lunch in the cabin next to the lake. A day of work in the rainforest is long and demanding, and the task requires a lavish meal.
As soon as the canoe enters the narrow stream that leads to the area that is being monitored, it becomes clear that these women’s roles are not merely aimed at feeding the group. When the canoe gets stuck on top of a fallen tree that crosses the stream, Yolanda quickly walks on the edge of the canoe, jumps on top of the tree and pushes the heavy canoe which carries approximately twelve people. She manages to jump back in before it swifts by past her.
As they disembark, many get their machetes in hand. Through workshops imparted by WWF-Ecuador and the Ministry of Environment, they have learned that installing camera traps requires the spot to be relatively clean from vegetation that might blur the images captured. Barbarita, the oldest woman in the group, swiftly uses her machete as the others approach the area where the next camera will be installed. By the time the group gets there, the spot is ready, and Doris kneels to strap the camera to a tree. She makes sure it is at the right height, and adjusts the settings to make it correctly work.
Today, Leonela has brought her five-year-old son Diego with her. She says he loves to come along and see what shows up in the cameras. He walks through the forest rapidly, following his mother’s steps. Leonela, as well as the other community monitors, want to use the information gathered in this project to develop environmental education materials for the local school, and teach their children about the rainforest they have on their doorsteps.
These strong, dedicated women are not only making it possible to capture incredible images like the ones you see here, they are also raising the next generation of community monitors who thanks to their work, will continue to have a healthy territory for which to look after.