In peril

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Science  05 Jun 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6239, pp. 1080-1085
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6239.1080

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Brazil's system of protecting isolated tribes has been hailed worldwide; it serves as a model for countries like neighboring Peru, where isolated populations are emerging. But as the pace of economic activity in the Amazon accelerates, some experts say that the protection system that was once the envy of South America is falling apart. Public and private enterprises are pushing deeper into the Amazon, and drug smugglers cross isolated groups' territories. The rate of contact seems to be rising, and in the past 18 months, three groups initiated contact in Brazil. Last summer, near the border with Peru, for example, isolated tribespeople spontaneously made contact, saying that they were fleeing attacks by outsiders. Brazilian officials helped manage the contact, but critics say that the young tribesmen did not receive medical care immediately when needed. They charge that Brazil is unprepared for a spate of contacts.

  • * in Brasília. Reporting for these stories was supported in part by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.