Massive illegal forest clearance threatens unique uncontacted tribe

November 19, 2014

Brazilian rancher Marcelo Bastos Ferraz has rejected the Ayoreo’s plea to stop destroying the forest inhabited by their uncontacted relatives. © OPIT

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The last uncontacted Indians outside Amazonia are running out of forest to hide in, say campaigners, as alarming new photos reveal rampant, illegal destruction of their territory.

Ayoreo-Totobiegosode Indians, whose uncontacted relatives are hiding in the last patches of forest in western Paraguay, have watched helplessly as cattle-ranching firms illegally invade their territory and raze the forest.

The Ayoreo have recently discovered miles of cattle fences illegally built in their territory – in Paraguay, this is always the first step to clearing the forest. © GAT/ Survival

The Paraguayan government has ignored their pleas to intervene.

Satellite photos show that two firms, Yaguarete Porá S.A. and Itapoti S.A., are defying national and international laws in a race to clear as much forest as possible. Yaguarete is owned by Brazilian rancher Marcelo Bastos Ferraz, who earlier this year rebuffed a Totobiegosode appeal to stop destroying their forest.

Guiejna, an Ayoreo woman, on the day she was first contacted in 2004. Her relatives are still hiding in the forest. © GAT

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is investigating the Ayoreo’s plight, and recently met government ministers to question them on why the Totobiegosode’s land claim, submitted in 1993, has still not been resolved.

Western Paraguay, until recently covered in forest, now has the highest deforestation rate in the world.*

Survival International Director Stephen Corry said today, “The uncontacted Ayoreo-Totobiegosode face catastrophe unless their land is protected. They are one of the most vulnerable societies on the planet. It’s shameful that the Paraguayan authorities are simply letting these ranchers carry on clearing the forest, knowing that this is the Totobiegosode’s last refuge. Unless public opinion forces them to act, the Indians have no future.”

The Ayoreo have discovered ranch workers illegally camped in their forest as they clear and bulldoze the forest. © GAT/ Survival

*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.



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