Survival International: Canadian oil company signs deal to explore uncontacted tribes’ land

A Canadian oil company has signed a deal with Peru’s government allowing it to explore land inhabited by one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes, reported the London-based NGO Survival International on Wednesday.

Petrolifera, a Calgary-based oil and gas company actively engaged in exploration and production in South America, has reached an agreement to explore almost four thousand square kilometers of a remote part of Peru where uncontacted Cacataibo Indians live.

The Cacataibo, which have already been split into two groups by a highway that connects the remote Amazon to Peru’s capital city, Lima, have chosen to live apart from the outside world voluntarily. According to Survival, it is believed that the two groups have been unable to meet each other since the highway was built in the 1940s.

Petrolifera has already begun to work nearby where the Cacataibo live. They have conducted seismic tests using dynamite there, and two local NGOs have appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to stop them.

“Despite so much publicity about uncontacted tribes in the world’s press over the last year, Peru continues to turn a blind eye to the rights, lives and livelihoods of its most vulnerable citizens,” said Survival’s director, Stephen Corry.

Petrolifera’s CEO, Richard Gusella, has described his company as a ‘poster child’ for companies interacting with local communities.

And, Peru President Alan García has publicly suggested that uncontacted tribes don’t exist, saying they have been “invented” by “environmentalists” opposed to oil exploration in the Amazon. Other state officials have compared them to the Loch Ness Monster.

But, according to Survival International, there are fifteen uncontacted tribes in Peru, “all of them under threat from logging and oil and gas exploration,” as well as Western diseases to which they have no resistance.

Last May, revelations that uncontacted Indians from Peru had fled to Brazil to escape from encroaching illegal loggers were accompanied by extraordinary photos of an uncontacted tribe in Brazil that sparked an international media frenzy. The photos, taken during a fly-over of a remote part of the Amazon, featured red-painted warriors pointing arrows drawn back in longbows and aimed at the plane above.

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