They’ve lived in isolation for centuries in the dense jungles of eastern Peru. But the Mascho-Piro Indians recently made a rare attempt to contact the outside world, approaching an Amazonian village to apparently ask for food.
The images in the video above show a group of about 30 Mascho-Piro, who approached the tiny jungle hamlet of Monte Salvado during the last week of June.
The footage was taken by a forest ranger working for FENAMAD, an organization that protects indigenous people in Peru’s Madre de Dios Province.
On Tuesday, an indigenous group called the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle, [AIDESEP] shared these images with media outlets around the world.
AIDESEP argues that illegal logging and oil prospecting in the Mascho-Piro’s lands have diminished the tribe’s hunting grounds, and could’ve possibly forced this primitive group to seek help from the outside world.
“What is happening is very lamentable, and worrying,” Saul Puerta Peña, a researcher at AIDESEP, told local paper Diario 16. “We are asking the government to protect their rights, and respect their identity.”
Klaus Quicque, the president of FENAMAD, told the AP that forest rangers from his organization speak a language that is similar to that of the Mascho-Piro and managed to understand some of their demands.
He said that the Mascho-Piro asked for bananas, machetes and rope, and had attempted to cross the small river that separated them from the village of Monte Salvado, but local rangers dissuaded them from reaching the village.
“They got halfway through the river,” Quicque told the AP. “People feared for their lives.”
Quicque said that a direct encounter might have resulted in violent confrontation between local villagers and the spear-carrying Mascho Piro’s. It is also potentially dangerous for the Mascho-Piro to come into contact with outsiders, because the tribal members’ bodies are not immune to diseases that are common in the modern world.
According to Survival International, an NGO that focuses on indigenous rights, there are 16 indigenous groups in the Peruvian Amazon who’ve had no contact with the outside world, and about 100 “uncontacted” tribes around the world.
In Peru, local laws prohibit outsiders from contacting groups like the Mascho-Piro or interfering with their territories. But Survival International says that these groups are often threatened by economic activities like illegal logging, mining and oil prospecting.
The Mascho-Piro have only contacted the outside world a handful of times over the past two decades. They were first photographed from a helicopter flying over the jungle in 2011 and were also photographed last year, when they approached the Las Piedras River.
In recent years, tourists visiting Peru’s Manu National Park had begun to develop a habit of leaving clothes and other gifts for the Mascho-Piro by the river’s banks. But local officials clamped down on this practice after a local indigenous man who had befriended the group was suddenly killed in one of his encounters with the Mascho-Piro.