An October feature by National Geographic (see article here) explores recent contact events between the Mashco-Piro isolated tribe and local villagers in southern Peru asked the question “why?”. The Mashco-Piro, or simply Mashco, are considered the most aggressive and dangerous of the handful of tribes living in isolation in the Purús – Manu Conservation Corridor. But in recent years, smaller sub-groups of the tribe are initiating contact with villagers on different rivers. Experts disagree whether this change in behavior is caused by external or internal forces. Are illegal loggers, drug smugglers and unscrupulous missionaries forcing them out of the forest, or are the Mashco simply drawn to villages by a desire for manufactured goods, such as machetes and metal pots, and food handouts?
Several years ago, Upper Amazon staff encountered a group of Mashco during an expedition to document illegal loggers in the headwaters of the Alto Purús River. The Mascho showed no aggression and let us leave without incident. A video of that expedition called “El Purús: The Plunder of Peru’s Forgotten Forest” can be seen here.