Signs of uncontacted Indians seen as forest is cleared around them

September 13, 2007

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Signs of the last uncontacted Indians south of the Amazon basin have been spotted by other members of their tribe in Paraguay.

Footprints and a still-burning campfire were seen by members of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode tribe last week in the western half of their territorial heartland.

The news has alarmed the Indians’ supporters, as the area is the scene of rapidly increasing deforestation.

The Ayoreo-Totobiegosode have been trying to protect the last substantial part of their ancestral forest since 1993. Many of their relatives still live in this area, resisting all contact with outsiders. All members of the tribe, including those who have had contact with outsiders for many years, depend on this forest for their livelihood.

Although Paraguay’s government is legally obliged to title this area to the Ayoreo, only a small part has so far been handed back to the Indians, and now illegal deforestation is rampant.

Last month Survival handed to the Paraguayan authorities a 57,000-signature petition calling on the Ayoreo’s land to be titled to them without delay.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘We know that the still-uncontacted Ayoreo Indians are being forced to live on the run as their forest is cut down all around them. On the day the UN is expected finally to approve a declaration on Indigenous peoples’ rights, the shameful saga of the Ayoreo shows the vast gulf for many tribal people between the reality on the ground and the aspirations of the UN declaration.’

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