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Indigenous leader in Brazil’s Amazon tries to thwart loggers

September 1, 2019
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Krimej indigenous Chief Kadjyre Kayapo, of the Kayapo indigenous community, looks out at a path created by loggers on the border between the Biological Reserve Serra do Cachimbo, front, and Menkragnotire indigenous lands, in Altamira, Para state, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. Much of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is done illegally -- land grabbers burn areas to clear land for agriculture and loggers encroach on national forests and indigenous reserves, and Kayapo says he does not want loggers and prospectors on his land. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
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Krimej indigenous Chief Kadjyre Kayapo, of the Kayapo indigenous community, looks out at a path created by loggers on the border between the Biological Reserve Serra do Cachimbo, front, and Menkragnotire indigenous lands, in Altamira, Para state, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. Much of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is done illegally -- land grabbers burn areas to clear land for agriculture and loggers encroach on national forests and indigenous reserves, and Kayapo says he does not want loggers and prospectors on his land. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

ALTAMIRA, Brazil (AP) — An indigenous leader in Brazil’s Amazon says he will do what he can to stop loggers and prospectors encroaching on his people’s land.

Kadjyre Kayapo, his son and other companions searched in recent days for signs of trespassing in the lush rainforest of the Kayapo indigenous group’s land in Pará state.

The routine patrol came after a month in which fires swept many areas of the Amazon, causing an international outcry over the growing threat to a vast area that drains heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

An Associated Press journalist accompanied the village watch group and saw paths and a bridge that had been put up by illegal loggers. They traveled part of the way in a boat between river banks thick with vegetation.

Kadjyre Kayapo is head of Krimej village, where villagers run a surveillance operation that tries to monitor incursions into indigenous territory.

“I founded this village to prevent the loggers getting into our territory,” said the leader, who wore a traditional headdressQ and a necklace reading “Jesus Christ” in Kayapo language.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro contends that past allocations of land to indigenous people, many of whom live in the Amazon rainforest, were excessive. About 14% of Brazil is indigenous territory, a huge area for those groups’ relatively small numbers, the president said.

Bolsonaro has faced criticism for saying rainforest protections are blocking Brazil’s economic development. He has said European countries expressing concern have done enough damage to the environment themselves and should focus on their own reforestation.

The Brazilian Amazon saw 30,901 fires in August, the highest for the month since 2010, according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research.

The data released Sunday said there was a 196% increase in fires in comparison to August of last year. In August 2010, there were 45,018 fires. Fires are most common in the Amazon from August through October, during the dry season.

Much of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is done illegally. Landgrabbers practice slash-and-burn techniques to clear forest for agriculture and loggers encroach on national forests and indigenous reserves.

Brazil contains about 60% of the Amazon rainforest.

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