2012-02-02 "Mashco-Piro Photo Release: Uncontacted Amazon Tribe Had Killed Photographer's Guide; Peru Issues Warning" by Amrutha Gayathri
Following the release of the "most detailed sightings of uncontacted Indians ever recorded on camera" by the advocacy group Survival International Tuesday, the Peruvian authorities reported that the same tribe members (Mashco-Piro) had killed the tribal guide who was with the archaeologist who captured the photographs.
The newly released photographs were taken by Spanish archeologist Diego Cortijo, a member of the Spanish Geographical Society, while on an expedition along the Madre de Dios River.
Cortijo had hired Nicolas "Shaco" Flores, a local Matsiguenka Indian, who had long maintained a relationship with the Mashco-Piro, as his guide. Flores invited the Cortijo and his teammates to spend a few days at his home, about two-hour boat ride from the tribal settlement, in November last year.
Mashco-Piro tribe members appeared on the riverbank across from Flores's house one morning, during the stay and called out his name. Cortijo said that he made the photographs with a long lens and that he and Flores did not approach the tribe members.
Six days later Flores was killed when struck in the heart with a bamboo-tipped arrow as he tended a garden on an island in the middle of the Madre de Dios River, just outside the community of Diamante on the edge of the Manu Park.
"It was a complete shock," Cortijo told Survival International, recalling the moment when he heard the news of the death on two-way radio at a ranger's control post downriver. "I couldn't believe my ears."
The Peruvian officials said that the behavior of the members of the extremely reclusive tribe has baffled the environmentalists and researchers. The aggressive behavior of the Mashco-Piro tribe, according to scientists, may be a reaction to the encroachment of loggers and by low-altitude aircraft from nearby natural gas and oil exploration, the Associated Press reported.
The tribe also attacked and wounded a forest ranger in October last year. Though Peruvian authorities claim that the tribe display aggressiveness which is uncalled for, several reports suggest that the mahogany exports of the country have led to excessive encroachment into remote territories in the Amazon, which the tribe may have perceived as a threat to their existence.
Peru has been a leading exporter of big leaf mahogany to the U.S. ever since Bolivia and Brazil reduced Mahogany exports. The highly sought-after red colored wood, is protected under the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). However, the Peruvian mahogany traders have found ways to continue exports by means of illegal encroachment into remote Amazon territories. Rampant poaching is believed to have disturbed the tribe, which led them to believe that all outsiders are threat to their existence.
According to an AFP report Tuesday, Peruvian officials have asked outsiders to stay away from isolated Amazon basin rainforest natives after pictures of "uncontacted" tribe members were published online.
(Photo: Survival International / D. Cortijo) The Mashco-Piro tribe is
one of 100 uncontacted tribes said to exist around the world.