Brazil: “Wave after wave” of loggers invade uncontacted tribe’s rainforest

The Kawahiva are forced to live on the run, moving from camp to camp to evade intruders on their land (image taken in a chance encounter with a FUNAI team.)
The Kawahiva are forced to live on the run, moving from camp to camp to evade intruders on their land (image taken in a chance encounter with a FUNAI team.)
© FUNAI 2011

Waves of loggers are invading the territory of one of the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. The Indians, known as the Last of the Kawahiva, are the survivors of a larger tribe who have been killed or died of disease.

One group of loggers was recently caught by agents from FUNAI, Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs department. However, as the loggers have local political support, and FUNAI agents do not have the power to arrest suspects, the men were released. Further waves of loggers have since entered the territory.

The crisis has raised concerns among campaigners that the tribe and their rainforest home could be destroyed entirely.

FUNAI agents work in many parts of Brazil to protect indigenous territories from loggers and other threats.
FUNAI agents work in many parts of Brazil to protect indigenous territories from loggers and other threats.
© Mário Vilela/FUNAI

In April 2016, the Brazilian Minister of Justice signed a decree to create a protected indigenous territory on the tribe’s land to keep loggers and other intruders out. This was a big step forward for the Kawahiva’s lands and lives, and followed pressure from Survival’s supporters around the world. However, the decree has yet to be properly enacted and now the small team who are working to protect the land are facing severe budget cuts.

Jair Candor, an experienced FUNAI agent, said: ”The Kawahiva are trapped. If any contact happens, it will be devastating for them. The only way to ensure their survival is to map out the land and put in place a permanent land protection team. Otherwise, they will be relegated to the history books, just like so many other tribal peoples of this region."

Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance has narrated a film to highlight the tribe’s plight.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Brazil committed to protecting the Kawahiva’s land in April, but with the government dragging its heels an urgent and horrific humanitarian crisis is unfolding. The Kawahiva’s land is still being invaded and their forest is still being destroyed. It’s time for Brazil to take action as it promised, before the genocide of an entire people is complete."