U.S. timber demand threatens uncontacted Peruvian tribe

Illegal mahogany loggers are plundering uncontacted Indians’ land in the depths of the Peruvian Amazon, according to a new report by the Upper Amazon Conservancy (UAC). UAC is a non-profit organization that works to protect the biological and cultural diversity of the headwaters of the Amazon River in Southern Peru.

Murunahua man.jpg

Recently-contacted Murunahua man, south-east Peru.

© Chris Fagan/Upper Amazon Conservancy

The report says the logging “provides evidence that Peru is failing to uphold the environmental and forestry obligations of its 2009 Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the U.S.” because “more than 80 percent of Peru’s mahogany (is) exported to the United States,” Survival International says on its website. Survival is a UK-based charity that advocates for indigenous people worlwide.

UAC’s report has been released just a month after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Peru to meet President Alan Garcia and claimed, ‘The United States and Peru are working together to protect the environment,’ Survival pointed out.

“The report also reveals how loggers trick Peruvian and U.S. authorities into believing the mahogany has been legally sourced. The logging ‘will continue until the US government unilaterally rejects questionable Peruvian mahogany,'” it says.

Murunahua reserve photo.jpg

Illegal logging settlement inside the Murunahua Reserve for uncontacted tribes, southeast Peru.

© Chris Fagan/Upper Amazon Conservancy

UAC’s report includes photos of a logging camp and cut mahogany in the Murunahua Reserve, which is supposedly set aside for uncontacted Indians’ sole use, in southeast Peru, Survival adds. “It says that logging is ‘widespread’ in the reserve, and that a ‘vast network of logging roads’ used by ‘over a dozen tractors’ connects the reserve to a major Amazonian tributary.

“The uncontacted tribes in the reserve ‘lack natural defenses against diseases brought from outsiders and are threatened by any type of contact,’ says the report. It also says the logging violates the ‘Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species’ (CITES), which aims to protect mahogany.”

The Murunahua Reserve was recently made off-limits to oil and gas companies because of the threat exploration would pose to the uncontacted Indians living there, Survival said.

Survival International director Stephen Corry said, “It would be a tragedy for U.S. citizens to continue buying Peruvian mahogany if it puts the survival of uncontacted Indians at risk.”

Download the report.

Posted by David Braun

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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