The survival of the “uncontacted” tribe whose images caused a worldwide sensation in February is in jeopardy, after the Peruvian leaked announced plans June 1 to abolish a reserve that protects their territory were exposed. The Murunahua reserve, on the Brazilian border, has been repeatedly invaded by illegal loggers in recent years. Following Survival International’s release of the photos and footage in February, Peru’s government said it would work with the Brazilian authorities to protect the area. But now its indigenous affairs department INDEPA is planning to abolish the Murunahua reserve completely—allegedly because it “does not believe there are uncontacted tribes living there,” in the words of an anonymous official. (La Republica, June 3; Survival International, June 1)
It is uncertain if the move will apply only to Murunahua or other such reserves created under pressure from indigenous organizations and environmentalists in recent years. The lack of clarity from the bureaucracy has provoked an angry response. “The changes they propose appear to be motivated by politics, not scientific evidence,” said Arsenio Calle Cordova, director of the Alto Purus National Park, which abuts or overlaps four of the five territorial reserves. The park forms the core of a mosaic of protected areas, known as the Purus Complex, covering 10,500 square miles of dense rainforest in southeastern Peru. Calle cited an INDEPA official named Luís Lacerna as having broached dissolving the reserves at a public meeting in the timber hub of Pucallpa last month.
According to Francisco Estremadoyro of the NGO Pro-Purus, Lacerna repeated similar assertions at a meeting two weeks ago in Lima. “It was completely disappointing to learn how little value the Murunahua reserve represents for INDEPA,” Estremadoyro said. (National Geographic News Watch, June 6)