Monday, October 24, 2011

Tourist Threat to Isolated Indigenous Community

23 October 2011
Source: Cool EarthLink

In a Peruvian rainforest National Park, close to the area being protected against logging by three Ashaninka communities in collaboration with the UK NHO Cool Earth, a group of voluntary isolated Mashco-Piro Indians have been spotted several times by tourists and park rangers. On one occasion an arrow was fired at and hit a park ranger. Fortunately, the arrow tip had been broken off before firing, a clear indication that it was a warning shot.

The National Park and Biosphere Reserve of Manu has always been part of the roaming territory of this traditionally semi-nomadic group of hunter gatherers, now one of the last remaining communities choosing to live beyond the frontiers of western industrial culture.

The Government authorities in Peru have responded to a call by Survival International to protect these Indians who have recently appeared on riverbanks near what it effectively a popular eco-tourist destination. Survival have written to Sernanp, the government ministry responsible for protected areas, following reports that tourists had left clothes on the riverbanks to lure the Indians out of the forest.

Uncontacted Indians lack immunity to common diseases, which can be spread by any contact with outsiders, including via clothing or bags. This week Sernanp wrote to Survival to report on measures taken to protect the tribe, including vaccinating the local population against influenza and alerting local health posts of a possible epidemic. The river area where the Indians have been appearing has also been declared a restricted zone. Sernanp is unsure why the Indians are appearing in the area, but illegal logging, which is presently rife in the Peruvian Amazon, is a string possibility.

"The policy of this government is one of permanent inclusion of indigenous peoples, of commitment to their social demands, including territorial demands, education, and health care," said Roger Rumrill, a special advisor to the Environment Ministry. With the present Peruvian government still well within its first 6 months of power, there is significant hope for the future of indigenous peoples and their rights in this rapidly developing Latin American rainforest country. After years of hostility toward indigenous groups by Peru's previous administration under Alan Garcia-who referred to indigenous people as 'savages'-the new administration under Ollanta Humala appears to be turning over a new leaf. However, indigenous people remain threatened by logging, gold mining, gas or oil exploration and a string of proposed mega-dam projects. Over he last few years, around 70 percent of Peru's Amazon has been opened up to oil and gas operations in a bid to develop the region.

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