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The BBC's Tom Gibb
"The expedition comes at a time of growing debate about policy towards Indians"
 real 28k

Wade Davis, National Geographic Society
"The Amazon is the size of the face of the full moon"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 27 March, 2001, 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK
Brazil seeks out lost Indian tribes
Amazon
Researchers will travel by boat along Amazon tributaries
The Brazilian Indian agency, Funai, has launched an expedition to search for isolated tribes living in the Amazon jungle and map their territory.


This is not about contacting them; they have been isolated and should remain that way

Indian agency official

The team is to travel along several tributaries of the Amazon river, near the border with Colombia and Peru, where monitoring planes have detected indigenous communities in recent years.

They will try to identify roads and huts to demarcate their land and find out if there is any threat of invaders.

An official of the agency said the expedition would try to avoid direct contact with any of the isolated groups.

"This is not about entering into contact with them," Funai official Manoela Mescia Costa said.


"The idea is to find them and then demarcate the territory they occupy. They have been isolated and should remain that way."

He added that the expedition would also try to find out if illegal loggers or miners had been active in the area.

The expedition consists of 20 researchers who will spend about eight weeks travelling some 4,000km through areas of the Amazon basin accessible only by boat.

Funai estimates that 53 Indian tribes live in isolation in Brazil, most in the Amazon forest.

The BBC's Tom Gibb in Sao Paolo says the launch of the expedition coincides with a growing debate in Brazil about official policy towards the country's Indians.

Mineral expoitation

Some senior army officers have criticised plans by Funai and the government to set up new Indian reservations, saying that the policy could limit Brazilian sovereignty.

The army has drawn up ambitious plans to deploy troops along Brazil's Amazon borders, a move it says is necessary to fight drugs and to stop a spillover of the war in Colombia.

Our correspondent says several powerful local politicians, who want to exploit mineral wealth in the Amazon, are also opposed to the reservations .

About 4,000 of the country's 350,000 Indians are thought to live in the area, which is known as the Javari valley.

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See also:

18 Aug 00 | Americas
Brazil's lost tribe returns
06 Apr 00 | Americas
Brazilian land activist walks free
12 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Amazon tree loss continues
30 Oct 99 | Americas
New hope for Brazil rainforests
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