Plea for UNESCO to witness uncontacted tribe's forest destruction

December 7, 2009

Bulldozers being brought in for illegal deforestation in territory of uncontacted Ayoreo people. © GAT/Survival

This page was created in 2009 and may contain language which is now outdated.

Relatives of one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes have urged UNESCO officials to see ‘with their own eyes’ how their traditional territory is being illegally and rapidly destroyed.

The land of the tribe, the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode, is situated in a UNESCO biosphere reserve. It is home to the last uncontacted Indians in South America outside of the Amazon, and thousands of hectares have been destroyed by Brazilian ranchers who want the land to graze cattle for beef.

‘We urge you to send a letter to UNESCO in Paris so that their representatives come and see with their own eyes what is happening to our forests,’ said a statement from the Totobiegosode’s organization, OPIT, to Paraguay’s Foreign Minister.

‘We thought that the creation of the biosphere could lead to respect for the forest where our uncontacted relatives live. It has not been respected. (Deforestation) kills the forest and the animals that we need to survive.’

The biosphere is being bulldozed by a ranching company known as Yaguarete Pora S.A. It was created in 2005 to protect the Totobiegosode and secure ‘the recovery, legalization and return of the land to these native people.’

The destruction of the Indians’ land has been dramatically revealed by satellite photos.

Survival director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘UNESCO is failing one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes. We urge them to do all they can to stop the deforestation of the Totobiegosode’s land before a significant part of its biosphere reserve disappears forever.’

Jonathan Mazower is available for interview. Jonathan is Survival’s Paraguay expert and has met some of the relatives of the uncontacted Totobiegosode.