Aerial photos show loggers inside Indian reserve


Photos taken from the air above an Indian reserve for voluntarily isolated communities in the Amazon appear to show illegal logging camps.

Survival International says the photos show loggers' camps inside the Murunahua Reserve in Peru, created to protect the Murunahua Indians in 1997. Three other camps were also discovered inside the reserve. Illegal logging is often done on a much smaller scale to legitimate logging but it provides a headache for conservationists as it is harder to plan for on a landscape scale. It can also be very dangerous for indigenous people.

The existence of uncontacted tribes in the region as been a cause for international concern for some time and Survival International say the Peruvian government have continually denied the presence of loggers in the area. The Brazilian government, to its credit, has alleged the loggers were driving Indians into Brazilian territory.

illegal-logging-peru"All four camps looked to be active. Illegal logging in protected areas is a serious threat to the indigenous people who live in the region. Not only are these 'uncontacted' people extremely vulnerable to diseases brought by outsiders, but there is a history of violent conflict between them and the loggers," said Chris Fagan, a conservationist from the US based organisation Round River Conservation Studies, who took the photos in March 2009.

The violence between indigenous people and authorities in Peru erupted in June as government plans to auction off huge chunks of land to international exploration companies in July came to a crescendo. During the clashes 34 people died and the auction has been postponed until later this year.

Some Murunahua have already been contacted by loggers - leading to the death of an estimated 50 per cent of them. One of the survivors told a Survival International researcher: "We left the forest when the loggers made contact with us. That was when the disease hit us. It killed half of us."

Diseases brought in from outside are historically a major killer of indigenous peoples around the world. It was reported yesterday that the first cases of swine flu have been reported amongst Amazonian Indians, raising fears of many deaths from people who aren't immune to outside diseases.

Survival International's director Stephen Corry said today: "These photos prove that loggers are inside Murunahua Reserve. Peru's government must act immediately: stop the logging and allow the uncontacted Indians to live in peace. The fate of Peru's isolated tribes was, after all, one of the concerns of the indigenous protests which brought much of the Amazon to a standstill earlier this year."


Round River Conservation Studies Map of Aerial survey route, March 2009