top of page




Located along the Aguarico River,  Zábalo totals over 142,000 hectares and is located within the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. Zábalo was founded in the early 1980s by a group of Dureno residents who sought to escape the dramatic ecological and social changes impacting Dureno, including resource scarcity and regular contact with colonists.  Zábalo did not receive official property rights until 1992 when they signed a co-management agreement with the Ministry of Environment. Due to their experience in Dureno, Zábalo residents developed a sophisticated resource management system to manage their resources collectively. As a result, Zábalo residents steward rich biological diversity: species richness measures of several biological groups in Zábalo are among the highest on the planet. These species are dispersed across diverse forest and wetland ecosystems, including extensive blackwater rivers and lake systems, swamps, and huge expanses of intact forests where Zábalo residents prohibit hunting.  Zábalo residents continue to hunt, fish, and gather daily, and they maintain agricultural fields along the Aguarico River.

In the early 1980s, a group of residents from Dureno relocated to establish the community of Zábalo. As a process of dramatic landscape transformation isolated their territory, resources important to their subsistence livelihood became scarcer. In response, a small group of residents from Dureno relocated to Zábalo, a traditional hunting area, where they were able to secure legal property rights through a co-management agreement with the government. With this move, they utilized their biocultural heritage to develop institutions to tsampima coiraye (care for the environment) in order to avoid the fate of Dureno. Built upon rich knowledge and practices developed over millennia, this institution has dynamically structured Cofán subsistence for the past 40 years. Today, it includes is a complex set of rules and restrictions that range from prohibited areas to limited takes and seasons. It also represents a form of adaptive management: each year community members revise the rules, supporting their positions with reflections from daily subsistence. In addition to this resource use institution, the Cofán have also been successful in excluding outsiders from entering their territory, be it through acts of resistance or park guards who patrol current territorial boundaries. The Cofán of Zábalo, for example, created strategies to patrol and defend their territory. Cofán park guards regularly patrol the territory of Zábalo, maintaining boundary trails and a permanent presence in guard stations located at the boundaries of their territory. Overall, the Cofán have developed diverse intuitions in order to maintain their lands and livelihoods.

Cofán Care

bottom of page