i Editor's Letter: Good luck to the Amazon 77


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The Independent Online

Remarkably, there are at least 77 “lost tribes” in the Amazon rainforest. One of them has just emerged into the outside world to seek help, after a murderous attack by drug traffickers. The incredible video released yesterday, filmed on the border between Brazil and Peru, shows naked men emerging from the forest, curious about the peculiar chaps they can see on the other side of the river.

After some whistling and singing, a couple of the bolder hunter-gatherers waded across to accept big bunches of bananas. They then returned home and soon afterwards went down with a nasty flu – a major killer among such indigenous people making “first contact”, although thankfully this lot have recovered.

Some people really don’t like outside company, an understandable hangover if your ancestors have been enslaved or murdered by rubber plantation owners, I suppose.

Arguably the most isolated people on Earth can be found in the Indian Ocean: the Sentinelese  residents of the Andaman Islands are so averse to contact with the rest of us that they repel any  low-flying aircraft with bows  and arrows.

The rare footage we saw yesterday is compelling for its hints at earlier human encounters – more naive, terrifying chapters in our history, when curiosity and nervous excitement overwhelmed anxiety, and improvised communications joined strangers. Good luck to the Amazon 77, who are in obvious need of greater government protection from illegal loggers and narco-traffickers. Our world would be more boring and monolithic without them.


Twitter: @olyduff