U.S. researchers have used satellite images to track the movements and demographic health of an uncontacted tribe in the Brazilian state of Acre.
Remote surveillance is the only method to safely track uncontacted indigenous societies and may offer information that can improve their chances for long-term survival.
The scientists used Google Earth satellite imagery to estimate the area of the fields and the size of the village belonging to the tribe, as well as the living area of the tribe’s temporary housing, and compared that with similar estimates for 71 other Brazilian indigenous communities.
“We found that the estimated population of the village is no more than 40 people. A small, isolated village like this one faces an imminent threat of extinction,” said Dr Rob Walker, the first author of a paper appearing in theAmerican Journal of Human Biology.
“However, forced contact from the outside world is ill-advised, so a non-invasive means of monitoring the tribe is recommended.”
“A remote surveillance program using satellite images taken periodically of this group would help track the movements and demographic health of the population without disrupting their lives,” Dr Walker said.
Using information captured from remote surveillance, scientists can help shape policies that mitigate the threats of extinction including deforestation, illegal mining and colonization in these remote areas.
“Additionally, surveillance also can help locate isolated villages, track patterns of migration over time, and inform and create boundaries or buffer zones that would allow tribes to stay isolated,” Dr Walker added.
Amazonia harbors as many as 100 locations of isolated indigenous peoples.