US timber demand threatens uncontacted Peruvian tribe 13 July 2010

Recently-contacted Murunahua man, south-east Peru
Recently-contacted Murunahua man, south-east Peru
© Chris Fagan/UAC/ProPurús

Illegal mahogany loggers are plundering uncontacted Indians’ land in the depths of the Peruvian Amazon, according to a new report by the Upper Amazon Conservancy (UAC).

The report says the logging ‘provides evidence that Peru is failing to uphold the environmental and forestry obligations of its 2009
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US’ because ‘more than 80% of Peru’s mahogany (is) exported to the United States’. UAC’s report has been released just a month after the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travelled to Peru to meet President Alan Garcia and claimed, ‘The United States and Peru are working together to protect the environment.’

The report also reveals how loggers trick Peruvian and US authorities into believing the mahogany has been legally sourced. The logging ‘will continue until the US government unilaterally rejects questionable Peruvian mahogany,’ it says.

Illegal logging settlement inside the Murunahua Reserve for uncontacted tribes, south-east Peru.
Illegal logging settlement inside the Murunahua Reserve for uncontacted tribes, south-east Peru.
© Chris Fagan/Upper Amazon Conservancy

UAC’s report includes photos of a logging camp and cut mahogany in the Murunahua Reserve, which is supposedly set aside for uncontacted Indians’ sole use, in south-east Peru. It says that logging is ‘widespread’ in the reserve, and that a ‘vast network of logging roads’ used by ‘over a dozen tractors’ connects the reserve to a major Amazonian tributary.

The uncontacted tribes in the reserve ‘lack natural defenses against diseases brought from outsiders and are threatened by any type of contact,’ says the report. It also says the logging violates the ‘Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species’ (CITES), which aims to protect mahogany.

The Murunahua Reserve was recently made off-limits to oil and gas companies because of the threat exploration would pose to the uncontacted Indians living there.

Survival director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘It would be a tragedy for US citizens to continue buying Peruvian mahogany if it puts the survival of uncontacted Indians at risk.’

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