The Brazilian government says that it has spotted a previously unknown indigenous tribe in the western Amazon that does not appear to have ever had contact with modern civilization.
Satellite pictures taken earlier this year first alerted the government’s national Indian foundation, known as FUNAI, to the possible existence of the tribe, National Geographic reports. Researchers then conducted a series of flyovers in the spring to confirm the tribe’s existence.
Photographs, obtained by Al Jazeera, show four straw-roofed huts, surrounded by banana trees. Researchers believe that about 200 people live in the community.
The clearings were found near the border of Peru in the Javari Region, one of the most isolated regions of Brazil with the highest concentration of isolated tribes. At least eight similarly "uncontacted" tribes have been spotted in the region.
Researchers and the Brazilian government agree that personal contact with isolated tribes should be avoided at all times in order to avoid the disruption of the natural habitat, and to prevent exposing the indigenous people to germs from which they have no immunity.
Two years ago, veteran FUNAI researcher Jose Carlos Meirelles discovered a similarly uncontacted tribe. His photographs of painted men firing arrows at the airplane made their way around the world.
“When the Indians hear the airplane above, they usually run into the forest. That is why it’s so hard to photograph them,” Meirelles said in an interview.
Sure, the sight and sound of an airplane can in itself be an extraordinary disruption, but Meirelles fears that the real threat to the tribes comes from illegal logging. So he refuses to give out the coordinates of the exact location of the tribes in order to protect them.
“If this situation continues, contact will become inevitable, and it is better that it happens with us than with loggers or gold panners,” Meirelles told the Guardian in 2009.