Recently released aerial photos of an uncontacted community deep in the Brazilian rainforest offers the latest evidence of isolated Natives in the western Amazon Basin.
The photos, taken on April 22 by officials from Brazil’s Indian affairs agency, Funai, and released earlier this week, show various thatched structures called malocas surrounded by corn and other crops. The malocas were located in three small clearings deep in the jungle of the Javari Valley, in western Brazil. The Brazilian government has declared more than 30,000 square miles (80 Sq Km) of wilderness – an area approximately the size of South Carolina – along its border with Peru as the Javari Valley Indigenous Reserve. Funai officials monitor and protect the reserve with help from the Centro de Trabalho Indigenista (CTI).
According to a Funai press release, the community was first discovered by examining high-resolution satellite photos of the reserve – which is inhabited only by isolated and recently contacted Native communities – after which Funai officials flew to the area in a small plane to photograph it. Funai officials believe that the Javari Valley Indigenous Reserve holds the highest concentration of uncontacted peoples in the world, but the area’s size and remoteness make it difficult to confirm their existence.
Funai has released photos of isolated groups on several occasions in order to raise awareness about their existence and the threats they face. Uncontacted Indians are extremely vulnerable to diseases, which can be spread by the loggers, farmers, miners, squatters and oil workers who are steadily encroaching upon their territories.
Some industry and government officials have cast doubt upon the existence of uncontacted Natives. Peruvian President Alan Garcia once claimed they were an invention of non-governmental organizations. Earlier this month, London-based Survival International warned that Peru intended to reduce, or alter the size of the Murunahua Territorial Reserve, to the southwest of the Javari Valley, which was created to protect uncontacted Natives, but Peruvian officials denied the claim and promised to improve protection of that reserve.
According to Conrado Octavio, a geographer from the CTI who supports Funai’s work in the Javari Valley Reserve, the greatest threat to its communities are on the Peruvian side of the border, which is lined with concessions for logging and oil exploration – activities that could drive isolated Natives there to cross the border and invade the territories of Brazilian groups.
“I’m not saying that all the threats are coming from Peru. We also have plenty of problems here in Brazil. But when the other side of the border is lined with logging concessions and oil concessions, it can’t be good for isolated peoples,” he said.