October 17, 2008REUTERS RIO DE JANEIRO–Evidence is mounting that unchecked logging in the Peruvian Amazon is pushing some of the world's last isolated tribes into Brazil and increasing land and food conflicts, according to a leading Brazilian tribe researcher and indigenous rights groups. From his observation outpost in a remote part of Brazil's Acre state near the Peruvian border, Jose Meirelles of the government's Indian affairs agency Funai told Reuters he was seeing regular evidence of uncontacted tribes fleeing the destruction of their traditional homeland. "Putting it simply, the loggers are killing and expelling the isolated people. It's clear that they (the Indians) are coming here," Meirelles told Reuters by e-mail. The 60-year-old Meirelles, who has lived in the area for 20 years researching and mapping uncontacted tribes, said he and a colleague had been attacked with last month near the outpost by a group of Aboriginals. The arrows were a different type than the ones used by Brazilian tribes he has studied, suggesting that the group had fled Peru. "Until two years ago, there were three peoples (in the area). A fourth moved to the area recently. The cut of their hair, their arrows and the place where they live is distinct from the others," Meirelles wrote. The reported attack took place in the same region where pigment-covered uncontacted Aboriginals were shown in photographs released in May that caused a worldwide media frenzy and drew calls for Peru to clamp down on logging in its Ucayali region. The head of Peru's agency that gives out petroleum licenses has occasionally questioned the existence of uncontacted tribes. An official at the Peruvian Indian Affairs department told Reuters it still aims to issue a full study on uncontacted tribes and logging that it promised several months ago. Initial findings were that logging is not causing groups to flee Peru, he said. "It is the policy of the state to recognize and protect uncontacted indigenous communities," said the official, who asked not to be identified. RESOURCE CONFLICTS Brazil has 26 confirmed native Indian tribes that live with little or no contact with the outside world, surviving by hunting and gathering as they have for centuries. Survival International, a group that campaigns for tribal people, says there are at least three groups on Peru's side of the border. "The (Peruvian) government has made it very clear that it wants to open up large parts of the Amazon – it's done that for oil and gas," said Survival's David Hill. "In this case there is a logging problem in all kinds of areas where it shouldn't be happening and it's failing to do anything about it." There is also logging on Brazil's side of the border. The Amazon Protection System that monitors the forest detected in May a deforested area of 2,000 hectares in the Kaxinawa Igarape reserve in Acre, 16 per cent of its total area. Funai has requested reconnaissance flights in 20 areas where isolated Indians are suspected to live. Meirelles says that newly built huts he photographed from the air this year about three miles inside the Brazilian border are further evidence of tribes moving from Peru. Planks of wood, empty fuel containers and other debris found floating down the Envira river past Meirelles' outpost point to logging activity upstream. Beatriz Huertas, an official with international indigenous rights group CIPIACI, spent three weeks in the border area in June. She said logging had caused conflicts between tribes over scarcer resources in Peru and pushed them into Brazil. Indigenous leaders in Rio Branco on Brazil's side told her they had been attacked by newcomer Peruvian tribes, she told Reuters. Former members of isolated tribes on the Peruvian side of the border told her in interviews that they had been attacked by loggers. "On one side they are persecuted and killed by loggers and when they flee they come into conflict with rival isolated tribes. So they have to keep looking for space where they can feed themselves," she said.