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Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 11:47 UK

Peru to protect isolated tribes

Uncontacted tribe near Brazil-Peru border
Brazil says dozens of tribes live in the region

Authorities in Peru are to take measures to protect some of the last indigenous tribes to have avoided contact with the outside world.

They have promised to stop loggers encroaching on their land near the Brazilian border.

The announcement comes after photographs of an isolated tribe taken near the border with Peru were circulated around the world.

The unknown group of native Amazonians were armed with bows and arrows.

The images were taken by the Brazilian government from the air, and showed some members of the tribe - their bodies painted red and black - firing arrows at a photographer in an aeroplane.

The Brazilian government say they took the photos to prove that dozens of isolated tribes live in the region, on both sides of the border.

They only hunt, gather and fish, they don't farm, but they know fire
Marco Tulio Valverde

Although anthropologists were not able to name the tribe it is believed that they had travelled a short distance from neighbouring Peru.

Authorities in Peru's Amazon state of Madre de Dios now say they will stop illegal loggers who travel deep into the forest in search of tropical hardwoods.

They are often the first people to encounter the tribes.

Marco Tulio Valverde, an adviser to the regional government, said: "We haven't determined if there are three different groups or only one, nomadic, which has been displaced.

"They only hunt, gather and fish, they don't farm, but they know fire."

Sickness risk

According to Survival International, a group that supports tribal people around the world, there are an estimated 500 isolated indigenous people in the region.

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Images of the Indian tribe on the Peru-Brazil border

Survival International's director, Stephen Corry, said: "This is a positive first step from the Peruvian government, but it must act fast.

"It must stop the logging, remove the loggers and any other invaders from the uncontacted Indians' land, and ensure that no-one else enters in the future."

Apart from the possibility of violent confrontations, encounters with outsiders are often fatal because the isolated people lack the antibodies to protect themselves from a common cold or the flu.

The Peruvian government has also sent a team to the jungle to determine whether or not the photographed tribe had been displaced from Peru by loggers.

According to the BBC's Dan Collyns, the government has been reluctant to set aside new areas of land for uncontacted tribes, and some officials have even denied the existence of such tribes, but there are signs of a changing attitude.




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