UN official condemns 'massive destruction' of uncontacted tribe's land

A Totobiegosode woman after she was forced out of the forest, Paraguayan Chaco.
A Totobiegosode woman after she was forced out of the forest, Paraguayan Chaco.
© Ruedi Suter/Survival

A senior UN official has condemned the “massive destruction of (Paraguay’s) ecosystems” which could wipe out the country’s last remaining uncontacted Indians.

Uncontacted Ayoreo­-Totobiegosode Indians in Paraguay’s northern Chaco region are being forced to flee from bulldozers that are destroying their homeland for beef production.

The Ayoreo­-Totobiegosode, like all uncontacted tribal peoples, face catastrophe unless their land is protected.

UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli­ Corpuz, told the Paraguayan authorities, “(The Ayoreo) need their forests, without them their culture will disappear.”

In October 2014, Survival submitted a report to the Special Rapporteur in advance of her first trip to Paraguay.

Survival’s report highlighted the illegal invasion of cattle ranchers on the Ayoreo’s land, which has resulted in the fastest rate of deforestation in the world.*

Brazilian beef firm Yaguarete Pora S.A. has been illegally felling the Ayoreo’s forest home, forcing the vulnerable indians to flee from the land they depend on for their survival.

The Rapporteur remarked on the poor health of the country’s indigenous peoples, 87% of whom have no access to health services.

Following first contact, many Ayoreo succumb to respiratory diseases to which they have no immunity, and numerous members of the tribe have been left to die.

“My general recommendation to the Paraguayan State is that it guarantees the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode’s rights and resources,” Tauli­ Corpuz said.

*This is based on a study conducted by M.C Hansen et al (2013), titled, ‘High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change’. The study analysed satellite data from 2000 to 2012 and demonstrates that Paraguay had the highest net loss/area for that time period.