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Imperiled Amazon Indians Make First Contact with Outsiders

Indigenous people with no prior contact to the outside world have emerged from the Amazon and made contact with a group of settled Indians.
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/ Source: Live Science

Indigenous people with no prior contact to the outside world have just emerged from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and made contact with a group of settled Indians, after being spotted migrating to evade illegal loggers, advocates say.

The news, which was released Thursday (July 2), comes after sightings of the uncontacted Indians in Brazil near the border with Peru, according to the group Survival International. Officials with the organization had warned last month that the isolated tribes face threats of disease and violence as they moved into new territory and possibly encountered other people.

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"Something serious must have happened," José Carlos Meirelles, a former official with the Brazilian Indian Affairs Department FUNAI, said in a statement. "It is not normal for such a large group of uncontacted Indians to approach in this way. This is a completely new and worrying situation, and we currently do not know what has caused it." [ See Photos of Uncontacted Amazon Tribe ]

Survival International officials said dozens of uncontacted Indians were recently spotted close to the home of the Ashaninka Indians in Brazil's Acre state along the Envira River, while a government investigation in the region uncovered more ephemeral traces of the tribe on the move: footprints, temporary camps and food leftovers. On Sunday (June 29), reports suggest, the vulnerable group of Indians made contact with the Asháninka.

Image: Uncontacted people in Amazon
Advocates are concerned by a recent uptick in sightings of uncontacted people. This image was released by Survival International in 2011.Survival International

Advocates think the Indians crossed into Brazil from Peru to escape drug traffickers and illegal loggers who started working in their territory, Fiona Watson, research and field director for Survival International, told Live Science in an email.

Advocates warned this could be a deadly development.

As they travel, the tribe may be at risk of clashes with other groups and contagious diseases to which they have no immunity. Illnesses like the flu and malaria, for example, devastated the Zo'e tribe in northern Brazil after Christian missionaries established a base camp in the area in the 1980s.

— Megan Gannon, Live Science

This is a condensed version of a report from Live Science. Read the full report. Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+.