Indigenous people and trees are in peril due to illegally-logged mahogany destined for the floors and high-end furniture of American homes. Loggers are operating in the supposedly protected lands of uncontacted tribes deep in the Peruvian Amazon. A new report details how illegal mahogany loggers are flouting international law and endangering the livelihood and health of tribes that have little resistance to any diseases that may be brought by outsiders. Mahogany is an endangered tree protected by international law; 80% of Peru’s mahogany exports go to the United States.
The Upper Amazon Conservancy states that until the US government takes a strong stand and rejects questionably-sourced Peruvian mahogany, trees and the tribes are at risk of disappearing. Loggers forced contact with the Murunuhua tribe in 1996; over 50% of them died in the ensuing years, mostly from respiratory infections. This video shows a tribe member who survived first contact:
The NGO Survival International estimates that there are 15 uncontacted tribes left in isolated areas of the Peruvian rainforest.
In March 2010 at an international meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), Peru was given six months to enact legislation to address the illegal mahogany trade. Repeated attempts to stem the flow to protect both the species and the indigenous people have failed and abuses are rampant. In June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greeted Peruvian President Garcia, saying, “The United States and Peru are working together to protect the environment, to move toward more sources of renewable independent energy to fuel the economy here in Peru.” Let us hope that we do not put a short-sighted quest for economic progress ahead of the protection of endangered trees and endangered tribes.
Write your congressman, member of Parliament or other government representative, or the President of Peru, urging protection of uncontacted tribes and of their lands. A sample letter can be found here:
Photo: Recently-contacted Murunuhua tribe member, Peru.
(c) Chris Fagan, Upper Amazon Conservancy via Survival International
Used with permission.