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Manu Park, Cocha Cashu Orientation and Uncontacted Tribes

by Jason on July 4, 2012

I just finished my orientation for my stay at the Cocha Cashu Biological Station in Manu Park in Peru. Wow. So here’s the download. Some things are obvious like don’t eat anything or handle anything or touch any animal in the jungle. Don’t swim in the lake alone or at night. Wear boots and don’t go out into the jungle alone.

In addition, the researchers at the station have a daily ritual of swimming in the lake. They don’t go out too far because there are caimans there. Caimans are like alligators, but a bit smaller. There are also piranha in this lake. And don’t forget the electric eels and freshwater stingrays. And giant river otters.

Swimming in the lake? Seriously? I will follow the leader on this one. But if it’s a ritual, and they’ve done it for years without incident, I will do it. And I will get it on video. 🙂 Because that is one heck of a fear to overcome. This time there literally are animals in the lake not too far from us.

Next, the uncontacted tribes. First, the history. 100 years ago on the Manu River lived native tribes. At that time, the rubber plantations were booming. So the rubber barons came through and killed a bunch of natives and used them as slaves on the plantations.

The survivors retreated into the jungle and have avoided outside human contact since — and for good reason. The other aspect is that their immune systems have not yet adapted to our germs. So our germs in the past have wiped out up to 90% of native Indian populations in the Americas as a result.

Fast forward to today, and there are still some uncontacted tribes that live close to the river where Cocha Cashu is located. So, part of the orientation today was about what to do if we come into contact with an uncontacted tribe. Because there have been two incidents of it occurring before.

The training indicated that the first step is to slowly retreat and back away in peace. If necessary, leave the entire grounds and get the heck out of there. We don’t want them to get our diseases either. They might come because they hear our sounds, and they often look for iron tools to use like machetes, which they don’t have. So that means we don’t keep our machetes strewn around. We keep the machetes in a central location.

These were the two main parts of our training today.

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