UNESCO biosphere bulldozed by Brazilian ranchers

November 30, 2009

A Totobiegosode man making string. The Totobiegosode’s forest is being illegally destroyed by Brazilian ranchers. © Survival

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A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve inhabited by an uncontacted tribe is being bulldozed by Brazilian cattle ranchers at a devastating rate.

A government representative and two relatives of the tribe have tried to enter the region, but personnel from the ranchers’ company, Yaguarete Pora S.A, barred them.

The reserve, in the Chaco region in Paraguay, is home to the only uncontacted tribe in South America outside of the Amazon, the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode.

The reserve is being destroyed despite UNESCO’s objective to protect the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode, including ‘the recovery, legalization and return of the land to these native people. . . (It) helps to protect local Indigenous communities’ homeland and cultural identity.’

The reserve also aims to protect ‘flagship species’ like the jaguar – an irony given that a Spanish language translation of that word, yaguarete, is the name of the company bulldozing the reserve.

Satellite photos show that thousands of hectares of the reserve have been destroyed, despite Yaguarete Pora having its license to work there withdrawn by the government.

The Chaco Biosphere Reserve was created in 2005. The general aim of these reserves, created under UNESCO’s ‘Man and the Biosphere Programme’, is to ‘innovate and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development.’

Survival Director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘The Totobiegosode’s land is being destroyed as we speak. Given that their land falls within a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, we hope that UNESCO can play a part in stopping this destruction and pressing for the recognition of their land rights.’