THE man behind photos of warriors from an “undiscovered” Amazon tribe that were beamed around the world has admitted it was a publicity stunt aimed at raising awareness of logging.
Indigenous tribes expert, José Carlos Meirelles, said the tribe had been known of since 1910, and had been photographed to prove that they still existed in areas endangered by logging, The Guardian reported.
Mr Meirelles, who was working for Funai, the Brazilian Indian Protection Agency dedicated to finding remote tribes and protecting them, said he found the group, recorded how they lived, and planned the publicity to protect them from losing their habitat.
Mr Meirelles, 61, said the “chance encounter” that produced the famous photographs was no accident.
“When we think we might have found an isolated tribe, a sertanista (tribe expert) like me walks in the forest for two or three years to gather evidence and we mark it in our (global positioning system),” he told al-Jazeera.
“We then map the territory the Indians occupy and we draw that protected territory without making contact with them. And finally we set up a small outpost where we can monitor their protection.”
He said the Brazilian state of Acre offered him the use of an aircraft for three days.
“I had years of GPS co-ordinates,” he said.
“A friend of mine sent me some Google Earth co-ordinates and maps that showed a strange clearing in the middle of the forest and asked me what that was.
“I saw the co-ordinates and realised that it was close to the area I had been exploring with my son – so I needed to fly over it.”
Mr Meirelles said he he flew a 150km-radius route over the border region with Peru and saw huts that belonged to isolated tribes. But he did not see people.
“When the women hear the plane above, they run into the forest, thinking it’s a big bird,” he said.
“This is such a remote area, planes don’t fly over it.”
On the third day , Mr Meirelles spotted a large community.
“When I saw them painted red, I was satisfied, I was happy,” he said.
“Because painted red means they are ready for war, which to me says they are happy and healthy defending their territory.”
Survival International, the organisation that released the pictures along with Funai, conceded yesterday that Funai had known about the nomadic tribe for around two decades.
It defended the disturbance of the tribe saying the international media attention surrounging the images had forced Peru to re-examine its logging policy in the border area where the tribe lives.
This story courtesy of NEWS.com
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