April 5, 2014 – Aboard Regatta on the Amazon River
Today, the water is muddy outside our windows. There are still a few patches of blue, but mostly it is muddy. There is all kind of debris floating in the water. We entered the mouth of the Amazon about 9 this morning although it looks like we are still at sea as the land is visible only on the horizon.
This morning’s lecture was about the People, Issues and Threats to the Amazon River. In 1500 Brazil had 3-5 million Indians. In 2010, they had only about 897,000. Only 2 states don’t have Indians – Piaui and Rio Grande de Norte.
To be an Indian you must meet these qualifications:
• You must have a connection to pre-colonial societies connected to the territory
• Your language, culture and religion must be well defined
• Your tribe must be registered with People Globalnet
• You must identify as different from other societies
There are 4 types of indigenous land:
• Blocked reserved for Indians
• Terra Dominiais which is land bought by the Indians
• Indian reservation which can be donated by a 3d person or bought by the Federal Government
• Land which has been traditionally occupied
• There are 518,000 registered Indians on reservations
• 74% of the registered ones live in the north
• There is a fairly high rate of literacy among the younger ones, but many of the older ones are illiterate
• There are 305 tribes
• 17.5% do not speak Portuguese
• 61% live in the country
• 107 isolated groups have been contacted but resist intrusion
• A new tribe was found in Peru in March, 2014
• A new tribe was found in Brazil in 2013
• 50% of the Indian population belong to the 10 largest tribes
• Invasion and destruction of land
• Lack of organization to identify and establish areas
• Deforestation and hydroelectric plants
• Introduction of diseases
• Exodus without control – conditions are worse in the cities
We saw the movie Xingu which had subtitles. It is about 3 brothers who took up the cause of the indigenous people in the 1940’s and fought the government, settlers and companies for them. It is well worth watching.
There are 5 freshwater species of dolphins in the world, but the pink Amazon River dolphin found in Peru and Brazil is considered to be the most intelligent. They have a brain capacity 40% larger than humans and have lived in harmony with the people of the Amazon Basin for centuries. Today they are faced with extinction in some tributaries. 20 years ago they were the least threatened species of dolphins, but today they have become of one of the most endangered species because of the accelerated commercialization of the Amazon basin and the destruction of the South American tropical rainforest. They have no natural predators, other than humans. They do not need to live in large groups or pods. They engage in solitary hunting/feeding strategies during the high water season when their prey disperse into the floodplains. At other times, they are found in small family groups of 5-8 animals which seem to be led by a dominant adult male. At river confluences, as many as 35 pink dolphins have been see cooperatively herding and banking fish, often in association with the gray dolphins.
There are many legends and myths surrounding the pink Amazon River dolphin. They have survived unharmed for centuries because of the local belief that they have magical powers. Thanks mainly to superstition they have managed to survive. Locals do not kill them because they think it is bad luck. They also do not eat them because they believe dolphins used to be humans a long time ago, and they can turn back into humans whenever they want. For some the dolphin turns into a handsome man at night, seduces and impregnates their women before returning to the river and becoming a dolphin again. For others, they’re considered evil or plain bad luck. Today, they are on the verge of extinction. Pollution from agriculture, industry and mining, as well as hydroelectric dams are in part to blame. Fishing nets, particularly gill nets used in commercial fishing are regarded as the most dangerous threat to the dolphins.
This evening, we had dinner in the Toscano Room. Its specialty is Italian. Guto joined us, and we had a good time visiting. Patsy is trying to persuade him to set up a bird watching trip, and he is thinking about it.
We had an early evening.