Brazil to Locate "Lost Tribes" By Their Body Heat

By Nina Bai | November 19, 2008 7:49 pm

flyoverThe fuzzy photos of a “lost tribe” in the Amazon released in May turned out to be somewhat of a hoaxthe government had known about the tribe for decadesbut they raised a real question: How do you protect uncontacted tribes without, well, contacting them? To answer this, the Brazilian government has come up with a way to track the tribes from a distance, using high-altitude planes equipped with body-heat sensors.

The “lost tribe” photos were released by Funai, a group dedicated to protecting isolated people from land encroachment by loggers and farmers. Antenor Vaz, the head of Funai, says the body-heat sensors will allow the government to identify tribal territories without exposing the tribes to Western infectious diseases. The government can then set up protected areas and leave them in peace. The Brazilian constitution stipulates that all Indian ancestral lands must be turned over the tribes; currently, about 11 percent of Brazil technically belong to Indian tribes.

The body-heat sensor will be mounted on a government jet originally used to monitor deforestation. The Brazilian government estimates there are 39 isolated tribes in the Amazon, but they don’t know for sure. Until the flyover surveillance begins, the only way to locate isolated tribes is to tramp through the jungle. Fiona Watson, a coordinator for London-based Survival International, says the task is “like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”

Related Content:
Discoblog: Tribe Wants No Part of the Modern World, While the Modern World Wants Their Land

Image: flickr / dogfrog

  • Scott Wallace

    Wrong, there was no hoax involved in those photographs. It’s just that the journalist who first disclosed their existence mistakenly believed the tribesmen were “lost” in the sense that no one knew they previously existed. They are still ‘uncontacted’ and very much real. Anyone interested in the topic will want to ready by forthcoming “The People of the Arrow,” to be published by Harmony Books later this year or early next. Stay tuned. Scott Wallace

  • Scott Wallace

    Sorry that should have said, will want to read my forthcoming book. You get it, written in haste.

  • Gabriela Chiran

    I think is not funny letting those people live like animals when the society is evolving. they should  have a chance to be a part of our communities.


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