There’s an indigenous Amazon tribe in Brazil that’s fighting back against deforestation – using bows, arrows and, unusually, GPS trackers and camera traps.
The Ka’apor have formed militias of ‘forest guardians’, utilising this combination of traditional and modern equipment to halt illegal logging in their territory. They claim they’ve been forced to take matters into their own hands as the government has failed to do so itself.
The tribe hails from Maranhao state, and comprises about 2,200 people. They intercept logging trucks and tractors and burn them. Drivers are warned never to come back, and if they do they’re stripped and beaten.
Since they started their campaign in 2011 illegal logging has been reduced, but four Ka’apor tribesman have been killed, and dozens of others have received death threats.
They’re now seeking support from NGOs and the media, The Guardian reports.
The tribe’s home territory of Alto Turiacu is about three times the size of Greater London. It’s a lucrative area of the Amazon forest, and is home to much sought-after trees like ipê (Brazilian walnut), which can fetch about £1,000 per cubic metre after it’s processed.
Although the Ka’apor have asked the government to help protect their borders, so far they’ve done nothing.
Tidiun Ka’apor, one of the group’s leaders, described what happens when they encounter loggers:
Sometimes, it’s like a film. They fight us with machetes, but we always drive them off. We tell them, ‘We’re not like you. We don’t steal your cows so don’t steal our trees.
They claim the use of violence is justified as the loggers are there to steal from them. There have been some broken bones, but no loggers have died so far.
The Ka’apor haven’t been so lucky. On the 26th of April Eusébio Ka’apor, a former chieftain, was murdered by gunmen on his way home. The crime hasn’t been solved, but his son Iraun is convinced he knows why he was killed:
He was a target because [the loggers] thought he was the main leader of the group. They thought the Ka’apor would stop if they killed him. But we will continue with our work of protection. I’m not afraid. This is my home, my land, my forest.
And good luck to them!