In a landmark decision, Brazilian authorities are providing armed backup to indigenous tribe members who are protecting the world’s most endangered tribe from total annihilation.
Brazil, South America’s biggest country, has been fighting an epidemic of deadly land conflict that arose from tensions between conserving the indigenous culture and economic development.
The country has long been struggling to contain the epidemic of illegal logging, which is the source of majority of Brazil’s timber production — and which threatens the survival of a vulnerable, uncontacted tribe.
The “Guardians of the Amazons” are activists from the Guajajara tribe in Maranhao state, who have made it their mission to protect of what remains of the eastern border of the Amazon rainforest. They want to preserve the land for the hundreds of Guajajara families and for their threatened neighbors, the Awa Indians.
Arariboia, the region which they are protecting, is the most threatened region of the Amazon as it is home to the Awa Indians — a tribe of the most threatened hunter-gatherers in the world, who have a great understanding of the forest and an affinity with wild animals.
The tribe faces extinction if they come in contact with loggers because they have nowhere to go to if their home is cut down. They also do not have the natural immunity to diseases that are carried by others in the outside world.
The Guardians have found abandoned Awa huts close to where the illegal loggers have operated, according to Survival International.
The Brazilian government has been floundering to address the alarming deforestation of the immense territory amidst budget cuts as well as political pressure to use protected indigenous lands for mining. Logging gangs have exploited the security lapse.
The extreme danger to the Awa has forced the Guardians to take matters into their own hands — with deadly consequences. Three of the Guardians were killed in 2016 and many of the campaigners now face regular threats and arson attacks.
Now, finally, something is being done about it.
“Over the weekend, a team of Ibama [Brazil's environmental protection agency] and environmental military police arrived in response to the Guardians' call for help,” said Sarah Shenker, a senior environmental activist with Survival.
“That was a landmark moment, I would say, because the Guardians hardly ever receive support,” she told the Thomson Reuters Trust Foundation.
Authorities deployed armed troops into the Brazilian rainforest after the Guardians captured a logging gang and burnt their trucks a few days ago.
The joint patrol is now moving into another area where a loggers’ camp was found, said Shenker.
In 2015, 2,500 square miles of Amazon was cut down. The deforestation has sparked concerns since the preservation of the rainforest is vital in fighting global warming.
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