National Geographic : 2013 Jan
THE LEAVES ArE STiLL dripping from an overnight downpour when Andrés Link slings on his day pack and heads out into the damp morning chill. It’s just after daybreak, and already the forest is alive with hoots and chatter—the deep-throated roar of a howler monkey, the hollow rat-a -tat-tat of a wood- pecker, the squeal of squirrel monkeys chasing each other from branch to branch. A strange, ululating chant starts up in the distance, fades out, then builds again. “Listen!” says Link, grabbing my arm and cocking an ear. “ Titi monkeys. Can you hear? There are two of them, singing a duet.” He imi- tates the high-pitched, rhythmic cry of one of the monkeys, then the other. Only then can I distinguish the two separate strains that make up the counterpoint chorus. This raucous celebration is the daily back- ground music for Link as he heads out on his morning commute through what may be the most biodiverse spot on Earth. Link, a pri- matologist from Universidad de los Andes, is researching the white-bellied spider monkey, Author Scott Wallace and a team of photographers journey into the heart of the Amazon, where big oil is threatening one of the last wild frontiers. The Waorani were once seminomadic, living in houses thatched with palm leaves, like these in the community of Cononaco Chico. Today most have settled permanently and live in homes made of wood and concrete. ivAn kASHinSky Scott Wallace is the author of The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tr i b e s . Photographers were assigned by specialty: Tim Laman (primates and birds), Ivan Kashinsky and Karla Gachet (culture), David Liittschwager (microfauna), Steve Winter (big cats). follow the photographic team into the field with video on our digital editions.