Today, UN Indigenous People’s Day, Survival International will present a petition with 57,000 signatures to the Paraguayan government— in support of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode, South America’s last (known) surviving uncontacted tribe outside the Amazon basin.
Recently, satellite imagery revealed Ayoreo-Totobiegosode land, nearly all of which has been taken over by powerful landowners, is being rapidly bulldozed to make way for cattle ranching. Those living in the forests can do little more than run.
Two Relatives, Leaders from the Ayoreo-Tobiegosode recently had this to say:
Porai Picanerai – The white men have already destroyed their own land. Now they are destroying ours. We must protect the forest that we still have. Also, our relative Jonoine and all his people are still living in the forest. We’re not going to let the whites carry on destroying more of our land. It hurts us to see so much of the land already destroyed in this place, where Ojnai’s group used to live. There are no more tortoises or palm hearts or wild honey here any more. We cannot let the whites carry on doing this.
If the white men keep clearing the forest, Jonoine’s people won’t have anywhere to live. I remember before I was forced out of the forest, we used to look for places where the land was undisturbed to take refuge in. We want to protect the land that remains so Jonoine’s people can carry on living in and from the forest.
Ojnai Etacori – All this land belonged to our ancestors, but the white men are going to destroy it all. I am also very worried about this destruction, because we don’t know where exactly the people still in the forest are living. I have a sister among them. This is why we don’t want the white people to destroy more of the forest with their bulldozers. (Spanish version, DOC)
According to Survival, the area is protected by injunctions which prohibit any clearances until the Indians’ land claim is resolved. This was reaffirmed two months ago, when after an Ayoreo-Totobiegosode hunting expedition saw two bulldozers clearing the forest,. they took steps to stop the illegal deforestation.
First they attempted to stop the bulldozers, but the rancher threatened to have them arrested. Then, they contacted GAT a Paraguayan NGO that has been working with them since 1993…
From Survival – The following week representatives of the police, the Environment Ministry, the Attorney-General’s office and the Forestry Department, accompanied by Totobiegosode leaders and observers from GAT and Survival, travelled to Sr. Sosa’s ranch and impounded the bulldozers.
Under Paraguayan law Sr. Sosa, being over 70 years of age, is immune from prosecution, but the bulldozers’ owner, a powerful local businessman, faces a substantial fine.
The Totobiegosode leaders hope that the authorities’ action will deter other ranchers from clearing their forest. Several of them, however, have succeeded in getting the injunctions lifted on their ranches, and the whole area being claimed by the Totobiegosode is under severe pressure of deforestation. (source)
See here for Survival International’s Media Kit regarding the Petition Campagin, or contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.