Spearing, Beheadings Reported in Ecuador National Park

Kelly Hearn in Buenos Aires, Argentina
for National Geographic News
May 5, 2008

An illegal logger has been speared to death by Amazon natives in Ecuador's Yasuní National Park, officials say.

The killing, which occurred March 4, reflects mounting tensions between natives and illegal loggers working in one of South America's most prized parks.

It also follows allegations made in February that as many as 15 Amazonian tribal members were beheaded by timber poachers in the region.

The death of the logger was confirmed by a spokesperson at the Orellana provincial police headquarters in Coca, Ecuador (see Ecuador map).

The Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio published a photograph of the scene, showing the body of the logger, Luis Mariano Castellano Espinosa, riddled with wooden spears protruding from his chest and legs.

The killing appeared to be the work of members of the Taromenane tribe, judging from the type of spear used, police captain Edwin Ruiz told the newspaper.

The attack took place in the rain forest of 1.9-million-acre (758,000-hectare) Yasuní park, which has been designated as a biosphere reserve by the United Nations.

Yasuní is rich in marketable trees such as cedar and contains a quarter of Ecuador's untapped oil reserves. The park is also home to Amazon natives such as the Taromenane and Tagaeri, two tribes living in voluntary isolation within the park's "untouchable zone," where logging and oil exploration are prohibited.

But loggers operate with impunity in parts of the park due to lack of enforcement, critics have charged, and violent clashes have resulted.

The murder is the most recent confrontation in Yasuní, where the government has now established a permanent military presence to stop illegal logging, a move that natives and rights groups had long demanded.

"[There] are powerful economic interests" involved in the park's future, said Diego Falconi, a top advisor to the Ecuadorian police. "[But the government] is committed to resolve it."

Beheadings Disputed

Continued on Next Page >>


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