BBC: First contact with isolated tribes?

January 25, 2007

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A BBC film to be broadcast on Thursday 1 February documents an expedition to make first contact with an isolated tribe in West Papua – and asks whether such people really exist. Survival estimates that approximately 107 uncontacted tribes exist worldwide – and all are threatened with extinction.

The film follows journalist and adventurer Mark Anstice, who signs up for a tourist trip to make 'first contact' with an isolated tribe deep in the West Papuan jungle. Anstice does meet some tribal people, but questions whether this is a genuine uncontacted tribe or if the trip was in fact a hoax.

Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, 'There are something like 107 largely uncontacted tribes in the world, about 44 of them are in West Papua. They remain separate because they choose to; and with good reason.

'Tourists could threaten these peoples, especially through the risk of bringing in disease. Tourists shouldn't try and go there: it's dangerous and irresponsible. If the encounter in the film wasn't staged, then both the tour operator and tourists should be ashamed of themselves. In fact, that's extremely unlikely: it wouldn't be the first time that people have staged 'first contact' situations to extract money from tourists.

'But this isn't the worst danger. Many tribes are survivors of past massacres and diseases, who have fled to remote areas. They face mining companies, loggers, colonists, and the armed forces, which have killed around 100,000 Papuans as Indonesia continues its violent occupation.'

'First Contact' will be broadcast on Thursday 1 February at 9pm on BBC FOUR.


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