Monday, June 02, 2008

Highway Poses Threat to Uncontacted Tribe in Brazil

Highway poses threat to uncontacted tribe in Brazil

The uncontacted tribes in the forest borderlands of Peru and Brazil, such as those pictured last week pointing a bow and arrow at a plane, are facing a threat from something beyond their wildest imagining.

It comes from a thing of which they've never heard, being built to serve a people who they have no idea even exist. It is a road, and in time it could lead to their destruction.

The 711-mile Trans-Oceanic Highway, which will eventually link the Amazon river ports of Brazil with the Pacific ones of Peru, is the biggest threat to the indigenous peoples – uncontacted or otherwise – in that part of South America, says John Hemming, celebrated expert on Brazilian peoples
There are, said Mr Hemming, thought to be 34 uncontacted groups in Brazil, and around 20 in Peru. Most live in forest that already enjoys some protection. But the damage can begin even before direct encounters occur, with incomers making tribes flee traditional territory and move into conflict with other groups.

Yet it is when there is face-to-face contact that bad things can swiftly happen. Disease is by far the biggest hazard. "These people are formidably fit," Mr Hemming said, "but they are fatally vulnerable to our everyday illnesses. Among them, such diseases as the common cold and measles are unknown and, if caught, deadly. After contact was made with the Surui people, for instance, half of their 400 members died from 'Western' illnesses within a few years.

Related: Uncontacted Amazonian tribe photographed - Hidden tribes of the world - Oil Exploration in Amazon Threatens "Unseen" Tribes

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