Brazilian Cattle Ranchers Destroying Indians Habitat in Paraguay

Ayoreo Indians from Paraguay In the Paraguayan side of the border between Brazil and Paraguay, the last uncontacted Indians in South America outside the Amazon basin have been spotted, apparently fleeing the rapid destruction of their jungle home. The Indians are members of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode tribe, who live in the dense forests of western Paraguay.

The forest where the Indians live is now being destroyed by Brazilian cattle raisers at a faster rate than the Amazon. The area is being illegally bulldozed to open up the land for cattle ranching.

"It's likely that the presence of bulldozers on their land is forcing the Indians into other areas, east of the zone being deforested," said Jorge Vera of the NGO GAT (Gente, Ambiente y Territorio), an acronym in Spanish for People, Ambiente and Territory, a local support organization for the Indians.

The Totobiegosode have lost a staggering 6,000 hectares of their land this year alone to companies wanting to graze cattle for beef. Since May the amount of their land destroyed has almost tripled. The companies destroying the Totobiegosode's land are both Brazilian: Yaguarete Porá SA and River Plate SA.

Besides the terrifying impact of the destruction of their home by bulldozers, any contact between company workers and the Totobiegosode could easily result in deaths on either side. Many Ayoreo have died in previous encounters.

The Totobiegosode were seen on two occasions by other Indians: a group of eight or nine men on one occasion, a smaller group several days before.

Esoi, a Totobiegosode man who was contacted in 2004 and has relatives among the uncontacted Indians, said today, "I'm appealing to the authorities to stop the destruction of our forest. My family is there now. That's where our houses are. We're losing our forest."

A team from Paraguay's government recently attempted to inspect the area where Yaguarete Porá is working, but company personnel barred them from entering. This met with widespread outrage and condemnation in Paraguay.

Stephen Corry, the director of Survival International, an organization dedicate to defend the human rights of tribal peoples, said, "The Totobiegosode are losing their land at a faster rate than the entire Amazon. If this continues, they may well be wiped out. Paraguay's new President Lugo must act fast to ensure that the illegal destruction of the Totobiegosode's forest by these Brazilian companies stop immediately."

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