Officials from Brazil’s Indian affairs agency, Funai, say they have confirmed the existence of a previously unknown indigenous group in the western Amazon, one of the remotest corners of the rainforest. The tribe was first discovered by examining satellite images to look for rain forest clearings and then it was confirmed by aerial reconnaissance flights earlier this year, National Geographic reported.
Three large clearings in the area had been identified using the satellite images, but the population's existence was only verified after airplane flyovers in April, according to the Associated Press.
Four straw-roofed huts, flanked by banana trees and encircled by thick jungle, can be seen in photographs taken during the flyover.
The community is likely to be home to about 200 people, probably from the Pano linguistic group which straddles the border between Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, according to Funai, the Guardian reported.
Fabricio Amorim, a regional co-coordinator for Funai, said the region — known as the Vale do Javari — contained "the greatest concentration of isolated groups in the Amazon and the world" but warned of growing threats to their survival.
Funai uses airplanes to avoid disturbing isolated groups of people living far from cities. Researchers and the Brazilian government agree that personal contact with isolated tribes should be avoided at all costs so as not to disrupt the natural habitat, and to prevent exposing the indigenous people to germs to which they have no immunity, Slate said.
Funai estimates that 68 such isolated populations live in the Amazon.
The number of uncontacted people that live in the region is considered to be the largest in the world, Amorim said, according to the Associated Press. There are at least 14 known groups, which would total a population of about 2,000 individuals in the area, Amorim said.
Their culture and their survival are threatened by illegal fishing, hunting, logging and mining in the area, along with deforestation by farmers, missionaries and drug trafficking along Brazil's borders, Amorim said.