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Uncontacted Tribes in Manu National Park in Peru

by Jason on September 13, 2012

Within Manu National Park in the Amazon Jungle in Peru there are some of the last uncontacted tribes in the world, including the Mashco-Piro tribe. As I spent two months this summer within Manu Park, both at Cocha Cashu, and also touring around the different sites, I kept encountering many people who told me their experiences about the uncontacted tribes. We also had our own experiences with the uncontacted tribes.

Whilhe at Cocha Cashu Biological Station, I learned from the scientific researchers that there have been three encounters in the last 30 years at Cocha Cashu with uncontacted tribes. The last encounter was in 2006.

During that encounter, the scientists became aware that the tribe was present, and the researchers quickly left the station. They came back some period of time later and went out walking the trails around the station. They found tapir and monkey bones, and they also found a human placenta.

While passing through the village of Boca Manu in Manu Park, I spoke with many residents who had lived there for a long time. I heard many experiences of the people that lived there of people from uncontacted tribes who would come and visit Boca Manu from time to time. One time, a group of three women from the uncontacted tribes stayed in the town of Boca Manu before leaving one day to go back into the jungle. She said that back then these visits were no big deal. The residents did not know that these people were “uncontacted tribes.”

Almost every boat driver, every guide, and anyone who lives or works in Manu National Park and frequently travels the Rio Alto Madre de Dios has seen and experienced the uncontacted tribes. I heard the same stories over and over again from many of these people during my stay.

Here are the basics of what they related. The Mashco-Piro tribe is appearing almost DAILY now on the Rio Alto Madre de Dios. They walk a few hours almost every morning and arrive late morning on the river. This time of year they are collecting turtle shells. They are also arriving because they like to receive goods from the outside world that they can use.

And some people, with good intent, have stopped to give them pots and pans, machetes and other goods that the tribes can use. While the intent is good, this has had a devastating impact on other tribes in the past.

Native Americans are not immune to the white man diseases, like the common cold. The great majority of all the natives in the Americas died from disease after Christopher Columbus came over. The same holds true for these remaining tribes that have not yet had contact with the outside world. When they come into contact with us, nearly 80-90% of them die from our common sicknesses because their bodies have no immunity. And when they receive pots and pans and other goods from us, it can be unknowingly lethal for their tribe’s existence.

All of the stories from the people who have seen them tell me similar things. They are a big tall people. They have big footprints. They are very sizable in stature. They are completely naked. The men have a string around their waist where they tie their penises to.

Last year, the Mashco-Piro tribe killed a man in the same area. The man was harvesting bananas on his own land, but the tribesmen believed he was on their land and attempting to steal from their land, so they shot him with an arrow. The man’s wife and daughter barely escaped. At least so goes the story from the people who live in that area.

In another area of Manu by the Rio Madre de Dios, there has recently been another encounter with an uncontacted tribe. A resident was out walking miles into the wilderness on a trail that was recently built. He came across the bow and arrow of an uncontacted tribe and a few other bones of animals.

With many of these tribes, they see you, but you do not see them. They are incredibly quiet and can enter a yard without waking the dog. So when they heard this man, they took off leaving their bow and arrow behind.

In the video below you can see the two arrows that they had left that were carved out of bamboo. The bow was recently stolen so it was not available for video.

In addition to the video, we also passed by the exact area where the tribes have been known to appear on the Rio Alto Madre de Dios. We felt quite blessed that the uncontacted tribe appeared on the river the same day we were there. Fortunately, we were able to obtain the photograph you see above and confirm many of the details we had heard about their physical appearance.

Many of these tribes are incredibly scared of us, as we are of them. This is because of the rubber boom back in the early 1900’s. Back then, rubber barons came through and enslaved most of the natives living in the jungle to work on the plantations. Those that were not enslaved were either killed or escaped into the jungle. The uncontacted tribes in Peru today are the ancestors of those that escaped. And to this day, they remain scared of the outside world.

Today, these tribes face various threats and face a real possibility of complete extermination in the very near future. Another threat is that these tribes live on lands that have valuable natural resources used by illegal loggers and illegal oil drilling. Some of the last stands of mahogany viable for commercial use are located where these uncontacted tribes live.

When the illegal loggers come into contact with these tribes, in other areas the tribes were massacred. There is another group, Survival International, that has done a tremendous job of documenting many of the uncontacted tribes in the Amazon Rainforest.

In addition, Hunt Oil has been seen with their helicopters within the boundaries of Manu National Park last year presumably on an oil exploration mission. It is illegal for them to be there. One of my contacts in Manu has a friend who worked for Hunt Oil on these explorations and has verified their presence within the boundaries of Manu.

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