In the dense rainforest of the western Amazon, researchers from Brazil's Indian protection agency have identified a new tribe of uncontacted indigenous people. Authorities say the remote group likely numbers around 200 members, living in traditionally built huts, called malocas, surrounded by small farms of nuts, banana, and corn. Although they are isolated from the outside world, therein lie many factors which threaten their mysterious way of life.According to the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), a government organization aimed at preserving the rights of the indigenous, researchers first became aware of the possible existence of an uncontacted tribe after finding several small gaps in the forest while reviewing satellite imagery of the Javari Valley in the western Amazon, near Brazil's border with Peru. In April, an overflight examination of the region confirmed the presence a settlement composed of three cleared agricultural areas and four malocas.
The expedition coordinator Fabricio Amorim says that confirming such discoveries requires years of careful research, following guidelines geared towards protecting uncontacted tribes.
From the flyover photographs, FUNAI has been able to make certain determinations about the mysterious and remote settlement.
"The crops as well as the malocas are new, dated within a year. The state of straw used in the construction, and size of the corn indicate [its age]. Besides corn, there was a banana and undergrowth that appeared to be peanuts, among other crops," says Amorim in a statement released by FUNAI.
To preserve the newly discovered tribe, FUNAI does not plan on releasing the specifics as to its location in a region home to approximately 14 other uncontacted tribes accounted for so far. But despite the settlement's geographic isolation, these indigenous peoples are not entirely protected from outside activities.
"The main threats to the integrity of these groups are illegal fishing, hunting, logging, mining, agro-pastoralists with large clearings, missionary activities and frontier situations, such as drug trafficking," says Amorim. "Another situation that requires care is the oil exploration in Peru, which could have an impact on Javari Valley."
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