Lost Amazonian tribe threatened by loggers

They're a thriving and healthy community, with no contact with the outside world. But illegal loggers want their land. So must another tribe die?

Hard wood is much in demand for the making of garden furniture; but it also provides the natural habitat for an Amazonian tribe. So which represents the greater need?

As an uncontacted society, they are a tribe without a name in Western Brazil, near the border with Peru. And aerial photographs reveal a happy community with baskets full of papaya fresh from their Amazonian gardens.

But the loggers are not far away and they want to destroy the home of these people. Why? Because there are large profits to be made in selling the wood, and the tribes are too poor to offer resistance.

The import of unsustainable or illegal timber is a prime cause of world deforestation and with a coffee table in every lounge, Britain is one of the main offenders.

The sense of discomfort is heightened by the random nature of the destruction. Because the trees don't grow together in the forest, large tracts of land are destroyed to obtain wood from just a few trees. Road building and worker accommodation accounts for more destruction.

Many are now worried for the tribe's future. 'The place is where Indians live, fish, hunt and plant and must be protected,' says Brazilian Indian leader, Davi Kopenawa Yanomami.

It's the Peruvian government who stand accused of not stopping the logging, which many claim is illegal.

Indeed, President Garcia has even denied the tribes exist.

'We are deeply troubled by the authorities lack of action,' say Aidesep, Peru's Amazon Indian organisation. 'Despite complaints from Peru and abroad against illegal logging, nothing has been done.'

And this is not the first invasion faced by these tribes. It's believed they fled deeper into the forest 100 years ago during the 'rubber boom' when rubber became a worldwide commodity. But can they escape the hardwood boom?

One hundred left
There are reckoned to be 100 uncontacted tribes in the world today. They live as they have done for 1000s of years, and the majority are in Peru, Brazil and New Guinea. But do they have a right to exist?

Some would say that in a world of supply and demand, small communities must give way to the needs of larger communities. And there is no mass supply of sustainable hard wood available.

TV presenter Barry Price disagrees. 'Protecting the land where tribes live is of global importance. We have consistently failed to introduce them to our world without inflicting terrible traumas. It is for them to decide when they want to join our world. Not us.'

You Decide

  1. What do you think of making contact with tribes that have previously existed in isolation? Should they a) Be left alone? b) Contacted?
  2. 'The tribe needs civilising.' Discuss.

Activities

  1. Get in a group and think about the tribes people and the loggers. What do they have in common and what separates them? Jot down your ideas and then role play a meeting between the two parties, in a tribal hut. How does it go?
  2. Write letter to President Garcia of Peru. What would you like to say to him about this tribe and the rain forests?

Some People Say...

“The loggers have rights as well”

What do you think?

Q & A

So how come they've been filmed if they haven't been contacted?
Brazilian authorities have been monitoring these groups for years, using aerial photography. They will have seen plenty of planes.
And how do they live?
Well, we can see manioc, maize, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, peanuts, papaya and bananas. They plant cotton that they spin and weave into skirts. And the men carry bows and arrows for hunting – probably tapir, wild pig, deer and monkeys.
But their time is up?
Stephen Corry, Survival director fears so. 'This isn't just a possibility – its irrefutable history, rewritten on the graves of countless tribes for the last five centuries.'A Nicely put. Rain forests are a crucial part of our ecosystem; and so are people.

Subjects

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