Peru: aerial photos reveal loggers inside uncontacted tribes’ territory

New aerial photos have revealed illegal loggers operating inside an Amazonian reserve set aside for uncontacted and highly vulnerable Indians. The photos show loggers’ camps inside the Murunahua Reserve in Peru, created to protect uncontacted Murunahua Indians in 1997. Three further camps were also found inside the reserve.

The presence of illegal loggers in the area has become an international cause celebre after the Brazilian government alleged that the loggers were driving uncontacted Indians from Peru into neighboring Brazil. Peru’s government has failed to acknowledge the presence of loggers in the area and recently said there was no evidence for Indians fleeing across the border.

“All four camps looked to be active. Illegal logging in protected areas is a serious threat to the indigenous people who live in the region. Not only are these ‘uncontacted’ people extremely vulnerable to diseases brought by outsiders, but there is a history of violent conflict between them and loggers,” said Chris Fagan, a conservationist from the US-based organisation Round River Conservation Studies, who took the photos.

Some Murunahua have already been contacted by loggers—leading to the death of an estimated 50% of them. One of the survivors told a Survival researcher, “We left the forest when the loggers made contact with us. That was when the disease hit us. It killed half of us.”

Survival International’s director Stephen Corry said, “These photos prove that loggers are inside the Murunahua Reserve. Peru’s government must act immediately: stop the logging and allow the uncontacted Indians to live in peace. The fate of Peru’s isolated tribes was, after all, one of the concerns of the indigenous protests which brought much of the Amazon to a standstill earlier this year.”

From Survival International, Aug. 13

See our last post on Peru and the struggle for the Amazon.