'They're killing us': world's most endangered tribe cries for help

Logging companies keen to exploit Brazil's rainforest have been accused by human rights organisations of using gunmen to wipe out the Awá, a tribe of just 355.


Trundling along the dirt roads of the Amazon, the giant logging lorry dwarfed the vehicle of the investigators following it. The trunks of nine huge trees were piled high on the back – incontrovertible proof of the continuing destruction of the world's greatest rainforest and its most endangered tribe, the Awá. Yet as they travelled through the jungle early this year, the small team from Funai – Brazil's National Indian Foundation – did not dare try to stop the loggers; the vehicle was too large and the loggers were almost certainly armed. All they could do was video the lorry and add the film to the growing mountain of evidence showing how the Awá – with only 355 surviving members, more than 100 of whom have had no contact with the outside world – are teetering on the edge of extinction.


It is a scene played out throughout the Amazon as the authorities struggle to tackle the powerful illegal logging industry. But it is not just the loss of the trees that has created a situation so serious that it led a Brazilian judge, José Carlos do Vale Madeira, to describe it as "a real genocide". People are pouring on to the Awá's land, building illegal settlements, running cattle ranches. Hired gunmen – known as pistoleros– are reported to be hunting Awá who have stood in the way of land-grabbers. Members of the tribe describe seeing their families wiped out. Human rights campaigners say the tribe has reached a tipping point and only immediate action by the Brazilian government to prevent logging can save the tribe...
...the Awá also face a more direct threat. Earlier this year an investigation into reports that an Awá child had been killed by loggers found that their tractors had destroyed the Awá camp. "It is not just the destruction of the land; it is the violence," said Watson. "I have talked to Awá people who have survived massacres. I have interviewed Awá who have seen their families shot in front of them. There are immensely powerful people against them. The land-grabbers usepistoleros to clear the land. If this is not stopped now, these people could be wiped out. This is extinction taking place before our eyes."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/22/brazil-rainforest-awa-endangered-tribe

Also see: Campaign to save 'world's most threatened tribe':
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/25/colin-firth-campaign-awa

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