Peru struggles to keep Amazon tribe isolated

Authorities ask outsiders to stay away from uncontacted tribes amid growing encroachment on their native lands.

    Sightings of the uncontacted Mashco-Piro tribe have increased in recent months [Reuters]

    The Peruvian government has asked outsiders to stay away from the habitat of a clan of isolated Amazon tribes after an advocacy group published pictures of the tribe online.

    Mariela Huacchillo, an official in Peru's office for Natural Protected Areas (SERNANP), told the AFP news agency on Wednesday that the "uncontacted" tribe members were "trying to remain apart from the outside world".

    She urged outsiders not to attempt to enter into contact with the tribe, saying that among other fears is the possibility that even indirect contact with the indigenous people could spread deadly viruses that do not exist in the region.

    Members of the tribe could also be hostile, she said.

    Peruvian authorities say they are struggling to keep outsiders away from the clan of previously isolated Amazon tribes, who began appearing on the banks of a jungle river popular with environmental tourists last year.

    The British-based advocacy group Survival International released photos on Tuesday showing clan members on the riverbank, describing the pictures as the "most detailed sightings of uncontacted Indians ever recorded on camera".

    The pictures, taken with the help of telescope, shows a family of "uncontacted" Mascho-Piro people in the Manu National Park, in remote southeastern Peru on the border with Brazil in the same Amazon rainforest region.

    Habitat being encroached?

    The advocacy group provided the photos exactly a year after releasing aerial photos from Brazil of another tribe classified as uncontacted, one of about 100 such groups it says exist around the world.

    One of the Mashco-Piro photos was taken by a bird watcher in August last year, Survival International said. The other two were shot by Spanish archaeologist Diego Cortijo on November 16.

    Sightings of the Mashco-Piro have increased in recent months, according to Survival International.

    "Many blame illegal logging in and around the park and low flying helicopters from nearby oil and gas projects, for forcibly displacing the indigenous people from their forest homes," the activist group said.

    He said the Mashco-Piro were one of about 15 "uncontacted" tribes in Peru that together are estimated to number between 12,000 and 15,000 people living in jungles east of the Andes.

    Beatriz Huerta, an anthropologist who works with Peru's agency for indigenous affairs, said their habitat was becoming increasingly less isolated.

    The clan that showed up at the river is believed to number about 60, including some 25 adults, said Carlos Soria, a professor at Lima's Catholic University who ran Peru's park protection agency last year.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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