Uncontacted Indians spotted 'fleeing forest destruction'
The last uncontacted Indians in South America outside the Amazon basin have been spotted, apparently fleeing the rapid destruction of their forest home.
The forest where the Indians live is now being destroyed at a faster rate than the Amazon. The area is being illegally bulldozed to open up the land for cattle ranching.
The Indians are members of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode tribe, who live in the dense forests of western Paraguay.
‘It’s likely that the presence of bulldozers on their land is forcing the Indians into other areas, east of the zone being deforested,’ said Jorge Vera of GAT, a local support organisation for the Indians.
The Totobiegosode have lost a staggering 6,000 hectares of their land this year alone to companies wanting to graze cattle for beef. Since May the amount of their land destroyed has almost tripled. The companies destroying the Totobiegosode’s land are both Brazilian: Yaguarete Porá SA and River Plate SA. Besides the terrifying impact of the destruction of their home by bulldozers, any contact between company workers and the Totobiegosode could easily result in deaths on either side. Many Ayoreo have died in previous encounters.
The Totobiegosode were seen on two occasions by other Indians: a group of eight or nine men on one occasion, a smaller group several days before.
Esoi, a Totobiegosode man who was contacted in 2004 and has relatives among the uncontacted Indians, said today, 'I'm appealing to the authorities to stop the destruction of our forest. My family is there now. That's where our houses are. We're losing our forest.'
A team from Paraguay's government recently attempted to inspect the area where Yaguarete Porá is working, but company personnel barred them from entering. This met with widespread outrage and condemnation in Paraguay.
Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘The Totobiegosode are losing their land at a faster rate than the entire Amazon. If this continues, they may well be wiped out. Paraguay's new President Lugo must act fast to ensure that the illegal destruction of the Totobiegosode's forest by these Brazilian companies stops immediately.’
» Photos of Ayoreo-Totobiegosode just after first contact in 2004 (image gallery)
For more information please contact Miriam Ross at Survival International (44) (0)7504 543 367 or email [email protected]