A top Brazilian expert on isolated Amazon tribes has been killed by an arrow as he approached indigenous tribesmen.
Rieli Franciscato, 56, had spent his career as an official in the government’s indigenous affairs agency Funai, working to set up reservations for Brazil’s endangered tribes.
He was head of a programme to protect indigenous groups that have little or no contact with the outside world and was in the area to monitor one such tribe.
Witnesses said Franciscato and his party came under fire as they approached an indigenous group, the BBC reports.
“There were just five armed men – a war party. Something must have happened to make them seek revenge,” a witness said.
Franciscato, who was accompanied by police, attempted to take shelter from the hail of arrows behind a vehicle, but was struck in the chest.
A policeman who witnessed the incident said the arrow pierced him above the heart.
“He cried out, pulled the arrow out, ran about 50m and collapsed, lifeless,” the officer said in an audio recording posted to social media.
A photojournalist in the region, Gabriel Uchida, told AFP news agency that Franciscato had been trying to observe a tribe known as the Cautario River isolated group.
Uchida, who also witnessed the incident, said the tribe was usually peaceful but “this time, they were behaving in a warlike manner”.
Survival International, an indigenous rights group, said Franciscato was called to the area after a number of uncontacted peoples appeared from the jungle in recent months.
The group said in a release that his death was “almost certainly a result of the immense pressure the forest and its peoples are under”.
Ranchers and loggers have destroyed much of the nearby forest in recent years and have threatened to destroy more of the region.
Indigenous groups in the Amazon and elsewhere in the world have been known to react violently to outsiders on their lands.
Local experts said such indigenous groups had no ability to distinguish between friend or foe from the outside world.
Incidents with illegal miners, farmers and loggers on their ancestral lands have become much more common since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, promising to develop the Amazon region.