National Geographic USA (June 2016)

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He and the others staf a post on the Alto Madre de Dios, across from a riverbank where a group of Mashco-Piro has often appeared. The riverfront post is named Nomole, “brothers” in Yine. Still, Romel’s initial contacts with the isolated group were stressful. They asked him to shoot an arrow and take of his clothes. They stared into his eyes and mouth, smelled his armpit, felt his testicles—all to find out whether he really was a brother. Romel has since warmed to them—they nicknamed him Yotlu, meaning “little river otter”—but he never turns his back on them.

A road would speed that leakage considerably, and the governor of the Madre de Dios region, Luis Otsuka, is promoting one that would extend farther along the Alto Madre de Dios to Boca Manú. No longer would tourists— or loggers, or miners—have to use expensive, gas-guzzling boats to get there. The village of Diamante lies along the proposed road. Its residents are eager for it, so eager that they’re working hard to get it built. P e ru ’ s wo r l d A pa rt 45 The giant otter grows up to six feet long and eats up to eight pounds of fish a day.

He plans to take a woolly monkey and a jaguar too, if he can. Jaguars don’t just compete with the Matsigenka for monkeys; they also kill children. The rest of us wait, then creep down the trail. A moment later the rain begins. It shoots from the sky with the ferocity of a pressure washer. The noise of our movements now completely drowned out by the cacophony of a million glossy leaves being battered by raindrops, we sprint off the exposed ridge and take shelter under the trees. In a few minutes Elias appears, smiling, empty-handed, skunked by the storm.

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