Famously photographed aiming arrows at a passing aircraft two years ago, an "uncontacted" tribe in Brazil's Acre state (map) appears thriving and healthy in new pictures—the most detailed yet of the Amazon group—experts say.
Though referred to as uncontacted, the Indians—pictured by a palm-leaf hut—are thought to have had limited interaction with outsiders but prefer to remain isolated, according to José Carlos Meirelles, the Indian-affairs specialist who led the team that took the new pictures in April 2010. (See "'Uncontacted' Tribe Actually Known for Decades.")
Released this week by the international indigenous-rights group Survival International, the images were captured from about three-quarters of a mile (1.2 kilometers) away during an annual monitoring flight organized by the Brazilian government.
In keeping with federal policy, the team did not make direct contact, for fear of introducing diseases or harming the tribe's environment and culture.
"They always get scared when they see an aircraft, but this tribe is used to seeing commercial flights—Boeings and local jets—flying over the region," said the newly retired Meirelles, who for 40 years worked for FUNAI, Brazil's indigenous-rights agency.
"I prefer to get them scared once a year—and make sure they are healthy, growing in number, and protected from loggers and miners—rather than leave them without any supervision."
The isolated tribe's land, especially on the other side of the nearby Peruvian border, is much sought after for its lumber, oil, minerals, natural gas, and hydroelectric and farming potential.
In the face of increasing illegal logging, pictures like these are vital to safeguarding indigenous land rights, Meirelles said, given that politicians in both Brazil and Peru have disputed that such isolated tribes even exist.
(Also see "Five 'Uncontacted Tribes' Most Threatened With Extinction.")
—Sabrina Valle in Rio de Janeiro