CORRIDOR FOR ISOLATED TRIBES

The Chitonahua community of Victoria II on the Yurúa River was first contacted in the mid-1990s by loggers and soon after by Catholic missionaries. Their experience with the loggers was essentially one of slavery, with men forced to work in exchange for basic food and things like clothing they didn't want. Attempts to escape were met with violence. Illness also followed, as it usually does, and then conflicts with other recently contacted tribes. In the early 2000's they left and settled Victoria II.
The Alto Purús National Park includes some of the most remote, last truly wild places in the Amazon.
Black spider monkey hangs butchered and for sale in a local meat market in Puerto Esperanza, Peru. Bushmeat is common in the remote indigenous villages and often makes its way into remote port towns like Esperanza.
Life in the remote Amazon centers around rivers and is dictated by the seasonal fluctuations—cycles that are increasingly less dependable due to climate instability.
Propane tanks and other goods queue on the border between Peru and Brazil on the Purús River, one of the only ways other than occasional chartered flights into remote Puerto Esperanza, Peru, which is several days up river by boat.
Many indigenous communities still rely heavily on bushmeat for protein.
Logging in Iñapari, Peru, at the beginning of the proposed road from Iñapari to Puerto Esperanza through the Alto Purús National Park. Roads are the entry point for all other threats to the region, including logging, mining, drug trafficking, missionaries, etc.
The port in Pucallpa lines the city side of a side channel of the Ucayali River and is almost exclusively dedicated to sawmills for the regional timber industry. Logs from the surrounding areas come by river to be processed and shipped out by truck on one of the few main highways over the Andes to markets on the coast.
Illegal logging is one of the main deforestation drivers in the remote Peruvian Amazon. While we were in the Purús, over 4 million board feet of illegal lumber was confiscated in Pucallpa.
Lack of resources to track the origins of logs coming from deep in the Amazon make it nearly impossible to distinguish legal from illegal harvests.
Baby caiman for sale. Puerto Esperanza, Peru.
A young girl bathes at the riverside while we load our boat in Puerto Esperanza, Peru. Puerto Esperanza is the last developed outpost on the Purús River and the launching point for visiting indigenous communities and the heavily restricted Purús Communal Reserve upstream.
Puerto Esperanza is an island in the Amazon—a triangle bordered on two sides by Brazil and the other side by the Alto Purús National Park. The only way in or out is by chartered plane or a very long boat ride. There is no running water and electricity is available each day from about 6 pm to 11 pm.
Unloading lumber in Manoel Urbano, Brazil, the last point on the Interoceanic Highway that crosses the Purús River, making it a likely port for goods from better-served areas traveling to remote outposts like Puerto Esperanza.
Much of the range of the Emperor Tamarin (Saguinus imperator), previously remote, is increasingly subject to development and deforestation, largely as a result of colonization along highways associated with logging and cattle ranching. Emperor Tamarins are included on the national official lists of threatened species of both Brazil and Peru. They are rarely hunted but are subject to some trade as pets.
With no roads, irregular commercial air service, and only the occasional military cargo transport plane, remote port towns like Puerto Esperanza are isolated from the outside world and legitimately need better health care, education, and other social and economic services.
Nuevo Eden, an Ashéninka village far up the Yurúa River, has several families with direct experience with isolated tribes.
Evening traffic in Puerto Esperanza.
Nuevo Eden, an Ashéninka village far up the Yurúa River, has several families with direct experience with isolated tribes.
People from the rural indigenous villages up and down the river come to Puerto Esperanza to sell or trade farmed, hunted, and gathered goods.
Evening soccer in Miguel Grau, an indigenous village at the confluence of the Purús and Curanja Rivers.
A map of the Manu River and its tributaries on the wall at the Pakita Ranger Guard Post in Manu National Park show how these rivers snake through the landscape. River travel is about 3-5km on the water for every 1km straight-line on the map and measured in 'bends of the river' instead of miles.
Chris Fagen, executive director at Upper Amazon Conservancy, (left) reviews the map with José Borgo, Purús and Tamaya coordinator at ProPurús (center) with Science Magazine writer Andrew Lawler (right).
A butcher makes calls to try and sell a freshly slaughtered cow. With a limited market for fresh meat in Puerto Esperanza, Peru, selling this much meat requires carefully coordinating.
Marcelino Pinedo Cecilio lives in Columbiana, about a day's boat ride up the Curanja River from Puerto Esperanza. Marcelino is a shaman, versed in traditional medicine using local plants, a knowledge fast disappearing in the modern world. He was contacted as a young boy by Catholic missionaries and then an anthropologist. He fled into the forest and shortly after many—maybe 200 people—in his village died from illnesses.
Specimens in partial preservation on display at the Pakita Ranger Guard Post in Manu National Park hint at the world-class biodiversity of the Western Amazon.
The Chitonahua community of Victoria II on the Yurúa River was first contacted in the mid-1990s by loggers and soon after by Catholic missionaries. Their experience with the loggers was essentially one of slavery, with men forced to work in exchange for basic food and things like clothing they didn't want. Attempts to escape were met with violence. Illness also followed, as it usually does, and then conflicts with other recently contacted tribes. In the early 2000's they left and settled Victoria II.
Parrot. Puerto Esperanza, Peru.
Educational propaganda poster at a missionary school in Columbiana, far up the Curanja River.
Traditional tattoos often cover much of the body and are similar to henna and last for several weeks. The paints are botanical: The black is made from huito and the red is made from achiote.
Painting traditional tattoos is often a social activity.
Epa (Shuri) is a liaison between the Isolated Indigenous Tribes and the modern world. In part because this is one of the few places in the world where isolated people still exist, Epa is one of the few examples in the world that continues to live in both.
There were maybe a dozen dogs living with Epa and his wives. They sleep in the hammocks seen here, while Epa and his wives sleep on the floor. He lives with three wives, a mother-in-law, and many dogs in a hand-built shelter along the Curanja River in the Purús Communal Reserve. He also spends time in the isolated ("uncontacted") communities.
There are few places left in the world unpolluted by light from urban and rural areas. Even at dusk, when you're several hundred miles into the proposed "Corridor for Indigenous Tribes in Isolation and Initial Contact" and far from any light pollution, the sky is already filled with stars and planets. Inversely, it is also said that there are more trees in the Amazon than stars in all of the Milky Way.
Boy with a toy gun in the indigenous village of Colombiana on the Curanja River.
Chris Fagan, executive director at Upper Amazon Conservancy and Jairo Samuel, Community Conservation Specialist at ProPurús, study the map and GPS on an expedition to vet the MultiModal Route as an alternative for a proposed road through the Alto Purús National Park for transporting goods to Puerto Esperanza, Peru.
"Making Contact", Science Magazine. June 5, 2015, Vol. 348, Issue 6239
"Making Contact", Science Magazine. June 5, 2015, Vol. 348, Issue 6239
"Making Contact", Science Magazine. June 5, 2015, Vol. 348, Issue 6239
"Making Contact", Science Magazine. June 5, 2015, Vol. 348, Issue 6239
"Letters", Science Magazine. August 21, 2015, Vol. 349, Issue 6250
"Do the Amazon's Last Tribes Have a Future?", The New York Times. Aug 8, 2015
"From Deep in Peru's Rainforests, Isolated People Emerge", Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. June 4, 2015
"From Paradise to Peril: The Amazon's Isolated Tribes", Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. June 4, 2015
"A Visitor Brings Doom to an Isolated Tribe", Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. June 4, 2015                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
"A New Look at Science", PDN. October 2015
"A New Look at Science", PDN Online. October 2015
"The Amazon provokes cliché even as it defies hyperbole."
-Wade Davis, Shadows in the Sun