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Lost Amazon Tribe, A Deception and Hoax Made to Raise Environmental Awareness

Written By David D'Angelo on Tuesday, June 24, 2008 | 6/24/2008

About a month ago various blogs featured articles regarding the so called "Lost Amazon Tribe". It intrigued the world and create various reactions and especially a pressure to the Peruvian government to protect them.

Just today when I was opening my Yahoo Mail, I have seen a Yahoo Buzz saying that the news was just a hoax made in order to raise awareness about logging and campaign for the protection of these tribes.

The man behind photos of warriors from an "undiscovered" Amazon tribe that were beamed around the world has admitted it was a hoax. Indigenous tribes expert, José Carlos Meirelles, said the tribe's existence had been noted since 1910, and they had been photographed to prove that "uncontacted" tribes still existed in an area endangered by logging, The Guardian reported.

According to his account, the Brazilian state of Acre offered him the use of an aircraft for three days.
"I had years of GPS co-ordinates,"he said.

Mr Meirelles had another clue to the tribe's precise location.

"A friend of mine sent me some Google Earth co-ordinates and maps that showed a strange clearing in the middle of the forest and asked me what that was,"he said.

"I saw the co-ordinates and realised that it was close to the area I had been exploring with my son – so I needed to fly over it."

Mr Meirelles said he he flew a 150km-radius route over the border region with Peru and saw huts that belonged to isolated tribes. But he did not see people.

"When the women hear the plane above, they run into the forest, thinking it's a big bird,' he said. 'This is such a remote area, planes don't fly over it.'

What he was looking for was not only proof of life, but firm evidence that the tribes in this area were flourishing – proof in his view that the policy of no contact and protection was working.

On the last day, with only a couple hours of flight time remaining, Mr Meirelles spotted a large community.

"When I saw them painted red, I was satisfied, I was happy," he said.

"Because painted red means they are ready for war, which to me says they are happy and healthy defending their territory."

Survival International, the organisation that released the pictures along with Funai, conceded yesterday that Funai had known about this nomadic tribe for around two decades.

It defended the disturbance of the tribe saying that, since the images had been released, it had forced neighbouring Peru to re-examine its logging policy in the border area where the tribe lives, as a result of the international media attention.

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