Last isolated Indians south of the Amazon make contact

A group of previously uncontacted Ayoreo Indians has emerged from the forests of Paraguay, under pressure from deforestation all around them. The 17 people (five men, seven women and five children) are in excellent health, but acutely short of water. Colonists who have settled in their territory have taken possession of the permanent water holes for cattle ranching, leaving the Indians unable to get water in the dry season.

The Indians made contact with fellow Ayoreo who were planning to establish a new community in the last sizeable area of forest in the region. For ten years the Ayoreo and their supporters have been trying to protect the zone from accelerating invasion. Now, ranchers and farmers occupy large parts of the Ayoreo's forest.

Under national and international law, the Paraguayan government should have titled the area (some 550,000 hectares) to the Indians. But after ten years, only around a quarter has been titled. Some landowners continue to send in bulldozers to clear the forest, defying court orders which were supposed to halt all work in the area.

The newly-contacted Ayoreo (who belong to the Totobiegosode sub-group) have requested access to water, and a halt to the incursions into their territory. In a message to the outside world they said, 'Please do not touch the forest, because it gives us life. Please stop the bulldozers.'

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival said today, 'This contact means it is more imperative than ever that the Paraguayan government properly protects the Indians' territory. It is now a question of the physical survival of this group, who are extremely vulnerable to outside diseases. The government must put a halt to the landowners' illegal activity in the area, and title the land to the Indians, as a matter of great urgency.'

Photos of the contacted group are available.

For more information, call Kali Mercier on 020 7687 8731, email [email protected]
Survival's Research Coordinator Jonathan Mazower has visited the location of the contact, and is available for interview.

Note to Editors: the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode are the last group of uncontacted Indians outside the Amazon basin. Some small groups of Totobiegosode remain isolated in the forest.