A 20-year-old man was shot and killed with an arrow last Friday in a remote corner of the Amazon by members of an isolated tribe that has only had a handful of encounters with the outside world.
Leonardo Perez, a member of the Shipetiari nation, was walking to his farm on tribal land when he happened across a group of neighboring Mascho Piro tribe members, one of whom fatally shot him in the chest with an arrow, according to a statement by Peru’s Ministry of Culture.
The ministry says this is the third time the Mascho Piro, a semi-nomadic indigenous tribe, has entered neighboring tribal territories this year.
Indigenous rights groups say these incidents are occurring as the Mascho Piro get displaced from their traditional land by illegal loggers, which has made them more aggressive with strangers.
This video shows two sightings of Mascho Piro in 2012 and 2013
“We have sent a delegation to the site to find out the details of what happened,” said Henderson Rengifo, the president of the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP), the main indigenous confederation in eastern Peru.
“We suspect that the Mascho Piro are reacting like this, because their territory is under threat,” Rengifo told Fusion in a phone interview from his offices in Lima.
The Mascho Piro are one of 15 tribes that live in voluntary isolation in the Peruvian Amazon. They inhabit a dense area of the jungle near Manu National park, in Southeastern Peru. Peruvian law prevents anyone from trying to contact the remote tribes, whose members are susceptible to disease and germs carried by outsiders.
Friday's attack took place at the Shipetiari reservation in Southeast Peru
In recent years however, sightings of the Mascho Piro have become more frequent, as the tribe ventures out of the forest and has even attempted to raid nearby villages.
Experts say that drug-trafficking and illegal logging could be pushing the Mascho Piro to look for resources elsewhere.
“South East Peru is one of the last places in the Amazon where mahogany still grows in any quantity, and it's therefore being targeted by large numbers of illegal loggers,” Jonathan Mazower, a spokesman for the indigenous rights group Survival International, told Fusion. “There is also a problem with drug traffickers using the area to traffic drugs into Brazil. Both of these are putting their territory under pressure.”
Indigenous leaders think clashes between the Mascho Piro and neighboring groups could be prevented if more steps are taken to protect tribal lands.
Henderson Rengifo, of AIDESEP, says the area inhabited by the Mascho Piro should be given natural reserve status and that law enforcement should increase its presence in the area to combat illegal logging.
“Right now that area is like a no-man’s land, and illegal businessmen take advantage of that” Rengifo told Fusion. “We want these places to be recognized as Mascho-Piro territory, and we need more protection for these indigenous brothers.”
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.