Nukak return to the forest

The isolated tribe of Amazonian nomads who fled their rainforest home in Colombia as fighting engulfed them are returning to the forest.

In response to a concerted national and international campaign, the Colombian government has announced that it is returning the Nukak to a safe haven of 20,000 hectares of forest. But the Nukak's new home is just 2% of the size of their own reserve, and is not part of their traditional territory, which is still the scene of violent conflict.

There are growing fears that the government move will make it much harder for the Nukak to ever return to their own land, and may be part of a longer-term strategy to transform the Nukak from nomads into a settled population, thus freeing up their ancestral territory for colonisation.

The group of 170 Nukak Indians have seen much of their territory taken over by coca-growers, guerrillas, paramilitaries and the Colombian army, as their once-remote forest has become a battle-ground in Colombia's long-running civil war.

The Indians fled their land in March. Over half the tribe had already died since their first contact with white people in 1988, leaving barely 500 survivors.

Survival Director Stephen Corry, said today, ‘We're delighted that the outpouring of concern around the world for the Nukak's plight has prompted the Colombian government to act. This is a real demonstration of how public concern can nudge governments into taking action. But the Nukak won't survive in the long term unless they can return to their own homes. It is absolutely essential that the government acts now to bring about a peaceful settlement to the fighting which has forced the Nukak out, otherwise their exile is likely to gradually become permanent.'

Photos available. For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]