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Indigenous 'Guardian of the Forest' Gunned Down by Criminal Loggers in Brazilian Amazon

Paulo Paulino Guajajara was hunting on Friday inside the Arariboia reservation in Maranhao state when he was attacked and killed by illegal loggers.
Paulo Paulino Guajajara was hunting on Friday inside the Arariboia reservation in Maranhao state when he was attacked and killed by illegal loggers. He was an indigenous Indian "forest guardian," seen here painting his face on Arariboia indigenous land in Brazil.
(Image: © Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino/Newscom)

Paulo Paulino Guajajara, a 26-year-old member of the Guajajara indigenous group living in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, was murdered on Friday (Nov. 1) by a group of loggers working illegally in the area. 

Mr. Guajajara, also known as Lobo (Spanish for "wolf"), was on a hunting expedition with a friend when five loggers ambushed the pair, Reuters reported. During the encounter, the loggers shot Lobo in the face, killing him, and they seriously wounded his friend, a tribal leader named Laercio Guajajara, sending him to the hospital. One of the loggers was also reported dead, according to Reuters.

Lobo was a member of the group called "Guardians of the Forest." This brigade of 120 Guajajara formed in 2012 to protect their tribe, as well as an even more vulnerable indigenous group living in voluntary isolation in a scrap of forest called Araribóia. This section of forest is constitutionally protected as indigenous land, but deforestation has separated the strip from the rest of the Amazon. Araribóia is a frequent target for illegal logging incursions, Reuters reported.

These incursions regularly end in violence. A recent report from Brazil's Indigenous Missionary Council, an organization formed by Catholic bishops to defend the Amazon's indigenous groups, found that 135 indigenous people were murdered in 2018, up almost 23% from 2017. The spike in deaths coincides with the election of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has vowed to open up protected indigenous lands to economic development. (The Bolsonaro administration also overlooked illegal logging operations that resulted in the ignition of hundreds of wildfires throughout the Amazon earlier this year.)

Since 2012, loggers have murdered at least three Guardians of the Forest. In that time, the guardians have burned down about 200 illegal logging camps, a brigade leader told Reuters. 

Earlier this year, members of the Guajajara petitioned the Brazilian government (twice) for protection from the increasingly aggressive loggers. The government has taken no measures to protect Araribóia or its people, according to The New York Times.

Lobo is survived by one son.

Originally published on Live Science.