Amazon tribes expert hit and killed by arrow as he approached indigenous group

A top expert on Amazon tribes has been killed after being struck by an arrow as he approached an indigenous group he was trying to save.

Rieli Franciscato, 56, died in a remote region of the rainforest in Rondônia state, north-western Brazil.

He was in the area to monitor the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe as part of his work for the government’s indigenous agency Funai.

It is thought the tribes mistook the tragic expert for one of the many invaders who have been devastating the forest around them, putting their existence at risk.

Witnesses said Mr Franciscato and his party came under fire as they approached the tribe.

The expert, who was accompanied by police, attempted to take shelter behind a vehicle, but was struck in the chest by an arrow on Wednesday.

A policeman said Mr Franciscato managed to remove the arrow, which hit him above the heart. The officer said: “He cried out, pulled the arrow from his chest, ran 50m and collapsed, lifeless.”

Local photojournalist Gabriel Uchida said Mr Franciscato had been trying to observe the tribe known as the “Cautario River isolated group”.

The journalist, who also witnessed the incident, said the people are normally “a peaceful group”, but “this time, there were just five armed men – a war party”.

Survival International, an indigenous rights group, said Mr Franciscato was called to the area after a number of uncontacted people appeared in recent months.

Ranchers and loggers have destroyed much of the nearby forest in recent years and have threatened to destroy more of the region.

Survival International said his death was “almost certainly a response to the immense pressure” the forest and its indigenous people are under.

Indigenous tribes in the Amazon and across the world have been known to react violently in the past to outsiders entering their territory.

In 2018 American missionary John Allen Chau was killed on the Indian island of North Sentinel, one of the Andaman Islands, around 750 miles off the mainland.

He was trying to convert the tribes people to Christianity when they fired arrows at him.

An organisation founded by Mr Franciscato described him as an “excellent, serious and dedicated professional”.

The Kahinde Ethno-Environmental Defence Association, which he helped to create in the 1980s, said the group had no ability to distinguish between friend and enemy from the outside world.