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Spotted uncontacted native flees, leaving dinner and dish behind

Deforestation threatens uncontacted natives in Paraguay.

The man had set up camp and was preparing to cook live turtles for a meal when he was seen by people he did not know. He hid behind a tree and then fled from the camp into the forest, abandoning his uncooked turtles and a clay pot behind.

The man was a member of the only uncontacted native tribe outside of the Amazon in South America: Ayoreo-Totobiegosode. Living in the dry forests of northern Paraguay, no one knows just how many of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode survive, but indigenous rights group, Survival International, says they are gravely threatened.

According to Survivor International, thousands of hectares of forest land on which they depend has been lost to cattle ranching companies, including the Brazilian company Yaguarete Pora S.A, which alone owns 78,549 hectares in the region. In fact the uncontacted man was seen just south of land owned by Yaguarete.

The clay pot left behind by the uncontacted native. Photo © © GAT/Survival International.

“This is further proof the Indians exist. It’s going to make things even more difficult for cattle-ranchers like Yaguarete in the future,” Survival International director, Stephen Corry, said in a press release.

The region being deforested is a part of the UNESCO Chaco Biosphere Reserve. Although the status brings with it no formal protections, it is meant as an indicator of humans living sustainably within internationally important ecosystems.

Another tribal group, the Totobiegosode, who are already-contacted relatives of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode, sent a letter to Paraguyan government condemning the loss of forests by ranchers.

“We are very concerned about [our relatives still in the forest]. They’re threatened by the deforestation in that region,” the letter said. The Totobiegosode are in a legal battle to win back the rights of their traditional lands from cattle ranchers in the UNESCO reserve.

The dry forest of Chaco is South America’s largest and home to a number of key species—lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris), giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), the jaguar (Panthera onca), and the Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri), which is classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List—as well as the last place to find uncontacted natives in South America beyond the Amazon.

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