Although it's not known what provoked the Mashco-Piro clan to leave the relative safety of their tribe's jungle home, Beatriz Huerta, an anthropologist who works with Peru's agency for indigenous affairs, speculated their habitat is becoming increasingly less isolated. The Mashco-Piro are one of about 15 "uncontacted" tribes in Peru that together are estimated to number between 12,000 and 15,000 people living in jungles east of the Andes.
Clan members have been blamed for two bow-and-arrow attacks on people near the riverbank in Madre de Dios state where officials say the Indians were first seen last May. One badly wounded a forest ranger in October. The following month, another fatally pierced the heart of a local Matsiguenka Indian, Nicolas "Shaco" Flores, who had long maintained a relationship with the Mashco-Piro.
Cortijo, a Spanish archaeologist, said the loss of Flores makes reaching any understanding with the Mashco-Piro very complicated. "The problem is that 'Shaco' was the only person who could talk to them," he said. "Now that he's dead it's impossible to make contact."
The advocacy group Survival International released photos Tuesday showing clan members on the riverbank, describing the pictures as the "most detailed sightings of uncontacted Indians ever recorded on camera."