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Eye in the sky: Tech helps to protect isolated Amazonian tribes

Uncontacted Yanomami yano (communal house) in the Brazilian Amazon, photographed from the air in 2016 (© Guilherme Gnipper Trevisan/FUNAI/Hutukara).

The Brazilian government is using satellite technology and aerial photographs to monitor and help protect isolated Amazonian tribes.

FUNAI, the Brazilian government’s Indian Affairs, told FoxNews.com that the rig satellites and aircraft to check on the tribes in the remote area.

Last month incredible new aerial photographs were released by an indigenous peoples’ advocacy group, that an uncontacted tribe which experts warn may be in danger of being wiped out.

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The photos revealed a village in the north of Brazil external Yanomami indigenous territory, which is estimated to be about 100 people.

A spokeswoman for FUNAI told FoxNews.com that the Yanomami group in the photos is known as the Moxihatetea. The tribe was first photographed in 2011, she explained, but noted that the latest images of the Hutukara group supports the Yanomami, provide more insight into the Moxihatetea.

A typical Yanomami ‘yano’—a large common house for multiple families—can be seen in the images. Each of the yano-square sections is the home of another family, where they hang their hammocks, to maintain fires and keep food stores, according to tribal advocacy group Survival International.

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The Yanomami have a huge botanical knowledge and use about 500 plants for food, medicine, and building houses, Survival International said. Members of the tribe care for themselves by hunting, gathering and fishing, as well as the cultivation of crops such as manioc (cassava or yuca) and banana, which are grown in large gardens cleared from the forest.

The village is located in the north of Brazil, close to the border with Venezuela.

FUNAI told FoxNews.com that there are 103 reports of isolated groups in Brazil, but only 26 have been confirmed. “The actions of the finding of isolated groups carried out by FUNAI, it is shown that this number can still increase in the coming years,” the spokeswoman explained. “Historical records show that the decision to live in isolation of these people may be the result of encounters with negative effects on society, such as infections, diseases, epidemics, and death, physical violence, the looting of their natural resources, or events that in their vulnerable areas.”

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The department said that it is in compliance with the Moxihatetea the desire to avoid contact with modern society. “It is possible, however, that they were sporadic and non-permanent contacts with other Yanomami groups,” the FUNAI spokeswoman added.

Survival International warns that the area where the Moxihatetea life is in danger of being over-run by 5,000 illegal gold miners, raising serious fears that they could be wiped out. In a statement released last month, Survival International, added that the Brazilian government agents charged with the protection of the Yanomami area, will be faced with severe budget cuts.

The FUNAI spokeswoman told FoxNews.com that “appropriate measures” to be made for the support of tribes in areas such as the Yanomami indigenous territory.

“FUNAI will continue to work to take the necessary measures to protect these isolated groups, to strive for the full exercise of their freedom and their traditional activities,” the spokeswoman said.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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