Tribes imperiled by oil and logging

Living deep in the forests of Peru, Brazil and Paraguay, five “uncontacted” tribes are at imminent risk of extinction as oil companies, colonists and loggers invade their territories, the Guardian reported, citing a study by Survival International. The semi-nomadic groups are the most threatened on earth, Survival said. Vulnerable to common western diseases, they also risk being killed by armed gangs.

Sixty members of the Awá tribe are said to be fleeing from gangs of loggers and ranchers on their land near Maranhão, Brazil. Logging roads have been bulldozed through a part of their territory, and ranchers want land to graze cattle for beef.

Little is known about the group of 50 Indians who live along the River Pardo in the western Brazilian Amazon. According to Survival’s report: “Loggers operating out of Colniza have forced them to be constantly on the run, unable to cultivate crops and relying solely on hunting, gathering and fishing.”

Perenco, an Anglo-French oil company working in a proposed Indian reserve in northern Peru, is endangering several uncontacted tribes between the Napo and Tigre Rivers, Survival says. One is believed to be a sub-group of the Waorani, and another is known as the Pananujuri. Perenco denies that the tribes exist.

Other tribes in trouble include several living near the Envira River in the Peruvian Amazon. Survival says they are being forced to flee into Brazil – a situation that Peru’s government has not accepted. Ranchers are bulldozing land where a fifth group lives – the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode in the Chaco forest of western Paraguay. A Paraguayan court ruled this week that a company had the right to log on their land, further endangering their existence.

There are thought to be more than 100 uncontacted groups in the world, concentrated in Latin America. As many as 40 could live in West Papua, however, where vast areas of forest and mountain have been barely explored. The groups choose to live in isolation, often because past encounters with the outside world have brought them suffering.

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