Remember back in February when one of the estimated 100 uncontacted Amazon tribes made headlines everywhere after it was discovered by a low-flying vehicle?
In a collaborative effort with the Brazilian government, the BBC released stunning footage of the tribe as part of the BBC One series, Human Planet. Simply marvelous:
When tribal advocacy group Survival International claimed the group was under threat, it wasn’t joking. They are now feared missing after presumed drug traffickers overran the Brazilian guards posted to protect the tribe’s lands. Officials can find no trace of the Indians in the area they usually inhabit after heavily armed men bull-rushed the guard post in western Brazil about 12 miles from the Peruvian border.
Police found a package containing 44 pounds (20 kilograms) of cocaine in the area. That could mean that the Envira River, where the Brazilian guard post is located, is now an entry point into Brazil for Peruvian cocaine smugglers, they said.
According to local reports, police have detained one man, a Portuguese national who was arrested and deported for drug trafficking in March. Jose Carlos Meirelles, who headed the remote guard post, is now back in the area and reported that several groups of men armed with sub-machine guns and rifles are in the forest near the base.
Guns aren’t the only threat to uncontacted Indians. Common diseases can also kill them, because they have not built up immunity to the viruses and bacteria outside their forest home. According to Survival International’s uncontactedtribes.org, there are about 100 uncontacted tribes in existence worldwide.
“This situation could be one of the biggest blows we have ever seen in the protection of uncontacted Indians in recent decades,” Travassos said, referring to the possible drug traffickers. “It’s a catastrophe.”
It would be a shame if something catastrophic happened to this tribe, though it’s possible the tribe simply went into hiding when it heard the men coming. It’s impossible to assume the worst — that the drug traffickers killed them all — but this development doesn’t bode well at all.