In an official report, Paraguay’s Department of Indigenous Affairs (INDI) confirmed this week that an uncontacted tribe is living on lands in the northern Chaco region owned by a controversial ranching company. Signs of the isolated Ayoreo tribe have been found on lands of the Brazilian firm River Plate. The investigation shows clear signs of the presence of the so-called “hiding tribe”—detailing footprints, holes dug to capture tortoises, and broken branches. INDI warned that the tribe is being “forced to flee to other areas to avoid being discovered.” The evidence will have consequences for cattle ranching companies River Plate and BBC SA, which have already been accused of putting the lives of the Ayoreo at risk. Satellite images from 2011 revealed their destruction of almost 4,000 hectares of forest inhabited by uncontacted bands, and led to the companies being charged with illegal deforestation.
The Payipie Ichadie Totobiegosode Organization (OPIT)—bringing together the three major sub-groups of the Ayoreo people—has appealed for more to be done to protect uncontacted tribes who are being pushed out of their forest homes by River Plate’s work. In February, Ayoreo leader Porai Picanerai told Paraguay’s Prosecutor General, “We ask you to stop deforestation in the Chaco, and to punish those who are killing the forest which we depend on for our survival.”
Survival Internaitonal’s director Stephen Corry said in response to the report, “It’s encouraging the government has heeded Ayoreo calls to investigate the presence of their uncontacted relatives. However, actions speak louder than words. The government must now clamp down on illegal deforestation and guarantee the Ayoreo rights to land, which they have claimed for over 20 years. It’s imperative if the survival of their uncontacted relatives is to be safeguarded.” (Survival International, March 1)