Bigger than Austria
Located in the state of Amazonas (north-west), on the border with Peru, the Javari Valley is a huge indigenous reserve established in 2001. It covers 85,000 km2, a territory larger than Austria.
The region has about 6,300 inhabitants. It is the second largest reserve in Brazil, after that of the Yanomami (north-east) which covers 96,000 km2.
refuge for the indians
Twenty-six indigenous people live on the reserve, 19 of whom have little or no contact with the outside world or other tribes. For these isolated peoples, the Javari Valley represents one of the last refuges.
“The Javari Valley is the place in the world that is home to the largest number of isolated tribes”, according to the NGO Survival International which defends the rights of indigenous people.
“It is a dense tropical forest (…) with many rivers crossing it,” Fiona Watson told AFP. The Survival researcher remembers being stranded in the area herself in the 1990s when her group ran out of gas.
“We just had to follow the river and let ourselves float. But that would have taken days, because of the winding curves of the river,” she says. “So one of our native guides decided to cut as the crow flies, crossing the meanders”.
He finally managed to come back with a can of fuel.
“The region is known to be difficult,” adds Fiona Watson. “The operation to try to locate Bruno and Dom is a huge challenge”.
The isolation of the area makes it a favorite place for drug traffickers, who take advantage of the very weak state presence and the porous border with Peru, the world’s second largest producer of cocaine after Colombia.
Indigenous lands are also regularly invaded by illegal loggers, gold diggers and poachers, experts say.
Bruno Araujo Pereira, former program manager at FUNAI, the Brazilian government agency responsible for indigenous peoples, has fought throughout his career against these invasions, which has earned him numerous threats, including death.
In particular, he has helped local communities to organize patrols to monitor their land. At the time of his disappearance, he was to meet with a local chief regarding this project, according to information released by indigenous organizations.