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DEFORESTATION: The greatest threat to the isolated Ayoreo

There is immense pressure on the forest inhabited by the Ayoreo people. In 2013, a report from University of Maryland revealed that the Paraguayan Chaco has the fastest deforestation rate in the world. Almost all the Ayoreo’s ancestral land is now owned by private landowners: wealthy Paraguayans, Brazilians and Mennonites, large-scale cattle-ranchers and investors, individuals and companies. Bulldozers are constantly encroaching further into this uncontacted tribe’s heartland and disrupting Ayoreo communal life. Families are forced to flee, leaving behind their huts, crops, cooking equipment and tools. Some choose to give up and leave the forest after years of life on the run, but soon contract deadly diseases, such as tuberculosis, after the initial contact.

One of the largest threats is the Brazilian firm Yaguarete Pora, which owns a 78,000-hectare plot in the heart of Ayoreo territory and produce beef for Europe, Russia and China. The company’s plans to clear-cut around two thirds of the forest to create a cattle ranch would have a devastating effect on the livelihood of the Ayoreo, who use the forest to feed and support themselves. Although Paraguayan law recognizes the Ayoreo’s right to own their traditional lands, powerful landowners have obstructed the law and have already illegally bulldozed some of the forest. The uncontacted tribe members have made it clear that they do not want contact, firing arrows at bulldozers operating on their land in 1994 and 1998. If the illegal clearing of their land continues, the isolated tribe members will soon have nowhere left to hide and could be wiped out by Western diseases or violent conflicts. For this reason, the settled Ayoreo are tirelessly fighting to win government support to protect the forest and save their uncontacted brothers and sisters.
Jun 22, 2015
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