What do you do if you want to build a pipeline to move 300 million barrels of oil but an "uncontacted" tribe is in the way? Employing consultants who claim they don’t exist certainly helps.
On July 22, Peru’s Energy Ministry gave the green light to Anglo-French company Perenco to build a pipeline in a remote part of the Peruvian Amazon that was described by one US scientist as, "the most biodiverse area in South America." Perenco is operating in an area between the Napo and Tigre rivers known as Lot 67, the first oil concession created in that region and initially licensed to US-based Advantage Resources in 1995.
Earlier in 1995, to the southwest of Lot 67, Peru went to war with Ecuador in a dispute over their borders. The fighting was once described by Bill Clinton as, "the longest running source of armed international conflict in the Western Hemisphere." It dated back to independence in the 19th century, but the stakes had been raised by the prospect of valuable natural resources below the soil. During the conflict in the 1990’s, Peruvian troops at one military post in the Napo-Tigre region refused to patrol in small groups. Scared of the Ecuadorians? Actually, it was the no contactados they were scared of: indigenous people who lived without regular contact with outsiders. Some years later, in 2002, two Peruvian soldiers glimpsed two of these no contactados - or "calatos" (naked people), as they’re sometimes called - and were so alarmed that they bolted, lost their bearings and spent the next 13 days wandering about the rainforest until rescued by colleagues .
The soldiers aren’t the only ones to have seen or found evidence of the no contactados in this region. Local indigenous people and mestizos, loggers, fishermen, anthropologists - all have stories to tell .