Leaders of an isolated South American tribe have issued a desperate public appeal on behalf of their family members who are hiding in forest targeted by cattle ranchers.
Some members of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode tribe in western Paraguay have been forced out of the forest in recent decades, but others remain hidden – in an area of forest that is shrinking by the day.
They are reported to be permanently on the run from the bulldozers which are penetrating their last refuge and avoiding all contact with the outside world. Several of their abandoned houses have been found in recent years.
A major Brazilian cattle-ranching company, Yaguarete Pora, has bought up part of the area. Having already destroyed some 3,000 hectares, its bulldozers were halted in May by the Paraguayan authorities, who accused the firm of failing to disclose that vulnerable uncontacted Indians lived in the area.
Now, after fierce lobbying by the ranchers to be allowed back in, two Ayoreo leaders have issued an urgent public appeal.
Gabide Etacori and Porai Picanerai said, “We are very concerned because Yaguarete Pora does not want to negotiate with us or the Paraguayan government to give us… the land that is the most important place for our people. We ask you to… help us to ensure that the land is protected so that the bulldozers do not enter and so that they are not given licenses to destroy our forest.”
Survival International has written to INDI, the Paraguayan Indigenous Institute, demanding that it acts immediately to prevent further destruction.
The NGO has also launched an international advertising campaign to highlight the grave situation faced by the Ayoreo, one of the last remaining uncontacted tribes in South America. The advert shows bare land that has been bulldozed to make way for cattle ranching.
“Yaguarete has persistently ignored the Ayoreo’s requests to keep out of their ancestral land,” said Survival International's Director, Stephen Corry, today (23 September), “It’s high time that Paraguay’s government fulfilled its duty to protect its most vulnerable citizens, who desperately want to be left in peace.”
He added, “The tribe has waited 17 years for land that is rightfully theirs – soon there may not be any land left to defend”.