Changing Planet

Last survivor of unknown Amazon tribe missing after attack

The last survivor of an unknown and uncontacted Amazon tribe has been targeted by gunmen, Survival, A UK-based group that advocates for tribal peoples, said today.

The only known images of the last survivor of the unknown tribe, who is known locally as the “Man of the Hole,” were captured fleetingly by filmmaker Vincent Carelli in his film “Corumbiara,” which documents the genocide of the Akuntsu and other tribes in the region.

The attack on the Man in the Hole took place last month in Tanarú, an indigenous territory in the Amazon state of Rondônia, Brazil, but the news has only just emerged, Survival said in a statement.

the Indian has been known to local administrators as the Man of the Hole because of the deep holes he digs to trap animals and hide in, according to Survival. “The Indian is believed to the only survivor of a tribe massacred by ranchers in the 1970s and 1980s,” the organization added..

“It is not known whether the Indian was in the direct line of fire or whether the shots were designed to scare him away, ” Survival added. “Ranchers in the area oppose government efforts to protect the man’s land, and are the most likely perpetrators.”


The Man of the Hole’s house and garden where he grows manioc and other vegetables.  

Photo © J.Pessoa/Survival

“Officials from FUNAI, Brazil’s Indian Affairs department, discovered that its protection post had been ransacked and found empty shotgun cartridges nearby in the forest, ” Survival said.

“The police have investigated the incident, but nobody has been charged for illegal entry.”

“This is a serious situation. The Indian’s life is being put in danger by the interests of the ranchers,” Altair Algayer, a FUNAI official, told Survival. FUNAI believes the Man of the Hole is still alive.

Stephen Corry, director of Survival, said, “His tribe has been massacred and now the Man of the Hole faces the same fate. The ranchers must allow this man to live out his last days in peace on his own land, and the authorities must do all they can to protect it.”

Survival Research Director Fiona Watson has been working on the issue of uncontacted tribes in Brazil for 20 years. “The situation is very dramatic in the region where the Man of the Hole lives, where uncontacted tribes survive in tiny groups, rather than larger groups found elsewhere,” she said in a telephone interview.

Road facilitated land invasion

“The Amazon rain forest in that part of Rondônia state has been intensely invaded by ranchers, loggers, and colonists since a major road, BR364, was constructed through the area,” she said.

Watson has visited the region many times but has never actually seen the Man of the Hole, because, she explained, it is Survival’s policy not to enter the lands where uncontacted people live, out of respect for their wishes not to be contacted. But there had been efforts to contact the man by Brazilian officials, she said, using people from different tribes who had tried calling him in a number of languages. There had never been a reaction, so nothing is known about his origins, she said.

The context of the Man of the Hole suggests he is most likely the only survivor of a massacre of his tribe by forest invaders, Watson said. “We have been able to piece together the story from the experience of the tribe nearest to him, the Akuntsu, which has only five survivors.” Researchers pieced together the Akuntsu story to establish that they survived a massacre as cattle ranchers and their gunmen moved on to indigenous lands.

Watson said the sole survivor of the unknown tribe was known to dig holes as deep as 15 feet. At the bottom of the holes spikes as long as two feet have been found, suggesting this is how he catches prey. A big hole has also been found in his house (in the picture above), which he might use as a place to hide, she said.

What makes the Brazilian authorities think the Man of the Hole may be alive? “There is evidence that he has been picking the fruits and digging up the manioc he planted,” Watson said.

FUNAI officials had been checking on the Man of the Hole every few weeks, Watson said. “Now they are organizing a more permanent watch over him.”

You might also be interested in:


Five “Uncontacted Tribes” Most Threatened With Extinction
Uncontacted tribes around the world are facing extinction, according to a Survival report. “Governments, companies and others ignore their rights, and invade and destroy their land with impunity.”



Amazon tribe down to last five individuals as oldest member dies
The Akuntsu tribe in the Brazilian Amazon has lost its oldest member, Ururú, leaving the tribe with only five surviving members.




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.

For photos, video, and more information about the last of the world’s tribes, visit the Survival Web site.

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David 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. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs 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. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

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