Ecuador’s indigenous Waorani have undertaken a three-year mission to identify and map out the natural riches of their territory in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon — a region zoned by the government for oil exploration and exploitation activities.The community’s efforts have covered 1,800 square kilometers (695 square miles) and identified 1,832 routes consisting of rivers, streams, hunting trails and paths.The Waorani, who have seen the devastation wrought by the oil industry on other indigenous forest communities, have also determined to launch a campaign against outside intervention in their own territory, aimed at the Ecuadorian government and the oil companies. After a 20-minute canoe ride down the Curaray River, past a swamp that leaves her legs caked in mud up to her knees, Obe heads toward a waterfall set amid pristine forest. This is the territory of the Waorani indigenous people, in Pastaza province in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Obe, dressed in a traditional skirt made of bark, is out looking for the medicinal plants that her people have used for generations, but a thunderstorm brewing overhead threatens her mission. With each step, she recognizes the diversity of leaves of all shapes, colors and sizes, and the different benefits that each offer. Some can be used as medicine, others as powerful stimulants; some can be eaten, others can be used as diapers. The latter is known in the Wao language as nemponka, Obe says: the “diaper of the jungle.” It’s a large, round leaf, smooth on the underside, in which babies are swaddled at night. Memo, a Wao man on the expedition with Obe, extracts an elongated leaf traditionally used during hunting. Placed under the tongue, the leaf helps hunters make a high-pitched whistle that attracts birds like the toucan. A step away, Obe identifies a plant to cure fever; a little later, another to relieve the liver; immediately after, leaves that, when rubbed on the legs of young children, are said to give them agility; and not far from there, roots that are crushed to extract a concentrate used as an antidote to snake venom. “But only for small snake bites,” Memo adds; for big ones, there is a different plant a couple of steps further ahead.