After my trip to Brazil's Amazon, I was wary when I caught glimpse of Thursday's released photos of uncontacted Amazon tribe members toting bow and arrow in hand. Having been on their native soil and learned about the importance of keeping their culture in tact, the catchy headlines and photos seemed to objectify the forest natives. During my research though, I came to realize that these photos were made public for a better reason than mere exploitation. Brazil's government officials and anthropologists released the photos to call attention to the tribe who faces great threat—disease, death or displacement—from illegal logging. Miriam Ross, a member of the Indian rights group Survival International says, "First contact is often completely catastrophic for "uncontacted" tribes. It's not unusual for 50 percent of the tribe to die in months after first contact. They don't generally have immunity to diseases common to outside society. Colds and flu that aren't usually fatal to us can completely wipe them out."
On Friday, Brazil's Environmental Protection Agency reported having shut down 28 illegal sawmills in Acre state on the Brazil-Peru border, where this tribe and many others dwell. Brazil's National Indian Foundation suspects there are 68 uncontacted tribes in Brazil with only 24 of those confirmed.
Despite Brazilian officials who say they are working to protect the groups and have seen tribal populations on the increase, threat from encroaching loggers becomes graver with every passing day. Hopefully, the release of these photos will draw some serious attention to the cause. Jose Carlos Meirelles, a coordinator of government efforts to protect uncontacted tribes for Brazil's National Indian Foundation says, "We put the photos out because if things continue the way they are going, these people are going to disappear."