Satellite detects bulldozing of uncontacted tribe’s forest

The only uncontacted tribe in South America outside the Amazon is having its forest rapidly and illegally bulldozed by ranchers who want their land to graze cattle for beef, Survival, a British-based charity that advocates for indigenous people, said this week.


Satellite image shows deforestation of the Ayoreo’s land for beef production.


“The Ayoreo-Totobiegosode is the only uncontacted tribe in the world currently losing its land to beef production,” Survival said in a statement accompanying the satellite image above. The image was made on November 1.


Ayoreo, Paraguay, first contact between this specific Ayoreo-Totobiegosode group, 2004. 


Survival has been publicizing the deforestation by advertising it on a major Paraguayan radio station, Radio Nanduti.

The ranchers are operating on the tribe’s land in Paraguay despite having their licence suspended by the Environment Ministry in August for previous illegal clearance, Survival said in its statement.

“This is a serious threat to the Totobiegosode. The illegal deforestation … in Paraguay is continuing without any control whatsoever,’ said the Paraguayan charity GAT, which is working to protect the Ayoreo’s lands.


Land bulldozed illegally for cattle ranching, Paraguay 

© J Mazower/ Survival

Some of the Totobiegosode have already been contacted and have relatives among those who remain uncontacted, Survival said.

Said Survival director, Stephen Corry, “The Totobiegosode are the most vulnerable uncontacted tribe in the world. A tragedy is unfolding right before our eyes–and the satellite camera’s lens. President Lugo must not sit back and watch as Paraguay’s most vulnerable people see their homes and livelihoods annihilated.”


Ayoreo, Paraguay, first contact between this specific Ayoreo-Totobiegosode group, 2004 


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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn