Peruvian authorities are struggling to help preserve the way of life of the Mashco-Piro tribe, a previously isolated Amazon people who began appearing on the banks of a river popular with environmental tourists. The advocacy group Survival International has released photos showing members on the river bank, described as the most detailed sightings of uncontacted indigenous people ever recorded on camera.
The release of the photographs comes on the back of increased violence as the tribe looks to steer away outsiders, including curious onlookers and logging and mining companies who are trying to force them off their land.
The Mashco-Piro are believed to be one of about 15 uncontacted tribes in Peru that together are estimated to number between 12,000 and 15,000 people living in jungles east of the Andes. Beatriz Huerta, an anthropologist who works with Peru's agency for indigenous affairs, speculated that the tribe left the relative safety of their tribe's jungle home because their habitat was becoming increasingly encroached upon. "To the west of the territories of the Mashco-Piro in Madre de Dios is the basin of the Urubamba river," Huerta said. "That's where the oil and gas drilling project of Camisea is located. We are very worried because there is a great possibility that the helicopters flying over are scaring the animals away. These animals are the source of food for indigenous people."
Experts are concerned the tribe may be decimated by a disease borne by outsiders, as has occurred with other uncontacted peoples, but it is still a mystery to them why the Mashco-Piro have appeared in an area so heavily trafficked. After the first sightings, and after tourists left clothing for the Mashco-Piro, state authorities issued a directive barring all boats from going ashore in the area. But enforcing it has been difficult as there is no effective policing.