Just when you thought every nook and cranny of the globe was explored, news out of Brazil on Monday revealed a previously unknown tribe hidden deep in the jungle.
Brazilian authorities claim to have pinpointed the location of a community of ancient and uncontacted tribespeople in one of the most remote corners of the world's largest rainforest.
This indigenous Amazonian community was discovered after three small forest clearings were detected on satellite images, according to Fabricio Amorim, a regional coordinator for Brazil's indigenous foundation, Funai. Flyover expeditions commenced in April, confirming the community's existence.
The government agency, known by its Portuguese acronym Funai, uses airplanes to avoid disrupting isolated groups. Brazil has a policy of not contacting such tribes but working to prevent the invasion of their land to preserve their autonomy. Funai estimates 68 isolated populations live in the Amazon.
Four straw-roofed huts, flanked by banana trees and encircled in thick jungle are seen in photographs taken in the flyovers. The recently identified tribe, estimated at around 200 individuals, lives in these four structures and grows corn, bananas, peanuts, and other crops. According to Funai, preliminary observation indicates the population likely belongs to the pano language group, which extends from the Brazilian Amazon into the Peruvian and Bolivian jungle.
The community is near the border with Peru in the massive Vale do Javari reservation, which is nearly the size of Portugal and is home to at least 14 uncontacted tribes or around 2000 individuals. It is believed that this region is home to the greatest concentration of isolated groups not just in the Amazon, but the world.
Government officials seek to avoid direct contact with these groups, instead working to protect their lands from afar. However, some contact may become necessary. José Carlos Meirelles, a veteran Funai official who has spent more than two decades working in the Javari region, explained to the Guardian in 2009: If this situation continues, contact will become inevitable, and it is better that it happens with us than with loggers or goldpanners.
Their culture and even their survival is threatened by illegal fishing, hunting, and mining in the area along with deforestation by farmers, missionary activity and drug trafficking along Brazil's borders. Yet, despite the threats, most of these groups maintain their distinct languages and traditions.
Check out this extraordinary film footage, narrated by movie star Gillian Anderson, that has launched Survival International's new campaign to protect some of the world's last uncontacted tribes.
Photos of a nearby tribe discovered in 2008:
Check out the latest photos of the recently discovered tribe here