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  • The man is believed to be the last member of his tribe after an attack in 1995 killed six of his fellow tribesmen.

    The man is believed to be the last member of his tribe after an attack in 1995 killed six of his fellow tribesmen. | Photo: FUNAI

Published 20 July 2018

"He's very well; hunting and keeping some papaya, corn plantations," said Altair Algayer, Funai's regional coordinator in Rondonia.

Video footage from Brazil of the last surviving member of an isolated tribe, who has spent 22 years living alone in the jungle since the rest of his tribe was murdered, has gone viral around the world.

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The Brazilian National Foundation of the Indigenous People (Funai) shared the video of the muscular man, dubbed 'the loneliest man on Earth' and believed to be in his 50s, cutting a tree with an axe in Tanaru territory, Rondonia state: the first time he has been seen in 20 years. 

The man is believed to be the last member of an uncontacted tribe decimated by loggers, land owners and farmers in the 1970s and 1980s in order to occupy their land. Six other members were assasinated by farmers in 1995.

The sole survivor was seen for the first time a year later and then again in 1998, when a documentary team accompanying a Funai expedition caught a glimpse of his face on camera.

The first known picture of the man, inside his house, in 1998. Photo | Funai

In 2005, Funai found his home, some of his plantations and the holes he makes in the ground – filled with wooden stakes – to catch animals, warning him the nickname 'the Indigenous man of the hole.'

"He's very well; hunting and keeping some papaya, corn plantations," said Altair Algayer, Funai's regional coordinator in Rondonia, who was with the film crew at the time. "He's in good health and good physical shape doing all that exercise."

Besides traps, the man also uses bows and arrows to hunt for monkeys, birds and wild pigs to complement his diet.

Survival, an organization fighting for Indigenous rights around the world, believes the tribe was targeted during construction of the BR 364 highway, financed by the World Bank, which brought hit men and sickness to the region.

Part of Funai's work is to register the presence of such tribes in order to protect their territory from economic activities, such as logging and mining, that threaten their continued existence. The foundation has protected the area in which the man lives since the 1990s, when it first became aware of his existence, and the Tanaru Indigenous Reserve was legally established in 2015.

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"Evidence shows that they represent the best barrier against deforetation," Sarah Shenker, Survival researcher, told El Pais.

Survival estimates that some tribes lose up to 90 percent of their members after first contact, Many fall prey to sarampion, flu and other infections against which they have no natural immunity.

In 2011, Survival researcher Fiona Watson found what she thinks was his home, tools and food, and filed a report. The government of Brazil decided not to contact him and to expand his protected territory by 7,413 acres.

Despite government efforts to protect the man, his territory is aleady surrounded by ranchers and farms. His presence is the only thing preventing further deforestation and, given his situation, even that could end soon.

Funai previously left seeds traditionally used by Indigenous groups and tools such as axes and machetes to aid his survival, but the man left everything in place.

"I understand his decision," Algayer told The Guardian. "It is his sign of resistance and a little repudiation, hate, knowing the story he went through."

Funai estimates there are 113 uncontacted tribes living in the Brazilian Amazon, of which only 27 have been confirmed by authorities.


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