The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, and it’s one of the most spectacular regions our planet has to offer. Mostly known for its unique plants and its incredibly rare and exotic species of animals, it provides the Earth with a great deal of its oxygen.
But while you may have been under the impression that it is one of the few parts of the world where human inhabitants are scarce, the truth is, there are a number of tribes that live in the area.
In fact, what you may not have known is that it is home to more isolated tribes than anywhere else in the world. Indeed, there are more than 100 uncontacted groups in the region.
Unfortunately, these tribes are incredibly vulnerable to being wiped out entirely for several reasons. In many cases, it’s due to being massacred by gold miners and cattle ranchers. Much of their land has also been invaded by outsiders, who hunt their game and destroy their homes.
Some tribes have perished entirely due to these outsiders and some are on their last legs, with just one single member of the tribe left.
Now, extraordinary footage of the last known survivor from an Amazonian tribe has been unearthed. Twenty-two years ago, the rest of his tribe were killed by cattle ranchers who stole their land.
Watch the extraordinary video here:
For two decades he has lived a life of complete solitude, wandering the rainforest half-naked. In the footage that has emerged recently, the tribesman, who is in his fifties, can be seen using an axe to cut down a tree.
The video was taken by Brazilian government officials in the remote state of Rondonia. It is thought that there are about 113 uncontacted tribes living in the Amazon and that 27 of these tribes have been seen by experts who tried to track their movements.
The lone survivor is sometimes referred to as the “the indigenous man in the hole’ and was first captured on camera back in 1998. He spends the majority of his time hunting pigs, monkeys and birds with a bow and arrow and lives in a hut surrounded by corn and papaya plantations.
Experts from Funai, a Brazilian agency for native tribes, believe the man may have belonged to a tribe of six and that five of them were wiped out by farmers in the 1990s. Survivors of other indigenous groups have spoken out about farmers who invaded their land and shot them in order to completely take over.
Funai has publicly held the cattle ranchers accountable for the deaths of the man’s fellow tribespeople. It is believed that this particular tribesman was able to survive when farmers and land invaders expelled and killed Amazonians in the 70s and 80s.
Funai said, “In the 1980s, disorderly colonization, the establishment of farms and illegal logging in [the Rondonia region] led to repeated attacks on the isolated indigenous peoples who had lived there until then in a constant process of expulsion from their lands and death.”
“After the last farmer attack in late 1995, the group that was probably already small – from reports, the local staff believed [it] to be six people – became one person. The guilty were never punished.”
Funai believes that isolated groups in the region should be left well alone, but they have monitored the man and his activity from a distance since he was first discovered in 1996.
Neither his name nor the name of his tribe is known to the agency, but they have worked tirelessly to increase the area of his jungle home to 8,070 hectares so he is able to maintain his lifestyle.
Back in the 1990s, an indigenous area referred to as Tanara was set up as part of an initiative to protect the man’s territory.
Learn more about the Jawaras, an entirely different tribe in the Bay of Bengal, and their own struggles for survival:
Traditional weapons such as machetes and axes have been left by workers from the organization so that he can find them and ultimately use them to sustain his lifestyle. However, they always ensure that they are never seen by him.
Members of the research and conservation agency make regular checks in the area in order to see if he is still alive. In fact, they often find him making holes in the ground which he uses to hide or trap animals. It’s exactly that which earned him the nickname “the indigenous man in the hole”.
Altair Algayer, a local coordinator for Funai, said, “This man, unknown to us, even losing everything, like his people and a series of cultural practices, has proved that, even then, alone in the middle of the bush, it is possible to survive and resist allying with society.”
Fiona Watson, of research group Survival International, told the Guardian that the footage of the man is “extraordinary” since his land is completely surrounded by ranches. She said, “Funai has a duty to show that he is well and alive. The crucial thing is Funai has managed to keep his territory. The fact he is still alive gives you hope. He is the ultimate symbol if you like.”
It is actually pretty astounding that he has been able to cut himself from mainstream society for so long considering there are so many farmers intent on taking over his land. Hopefully, with the help of Funai, he will continue to live a healthy, trouble-free life.