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Lobo, guardian of the Amazon rainforest, killed by illegal loggers in Brazil

Global News logo Global News 2019-11-04 Josh K. Elliott
a person sitting on a rock: Paul Paulino Guajajara was hunting on Friday Nov 1 inside the Arariboia reservation in Maranhao state when he was attacked and killed by illegal loggers. © REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino Paul Paulino Guajajara was hunting on Friday Nov 1 inside the Arariboia reservation in Maranhao state when he was attacked and killed by illegal loggers.

An Indigenous warrior known for defending the Amazon rainforest has been shot dead after illegal loggers set a trap for him in Brazil, according to leaders of the Guajajara tribe.

Paul Paulino Guajajara, a.k.a. Lobo, was shot in the head Friday while he was hunting on the Arariboia reservation in northern Brazil. Tribe leaders said another member of the tribe was injured but escaped the attack.

READ MORE: Brazilian Indigenous rights activist murdered in Amazon

Lobo, 27, was a member of the Guardians of the Forest, an Indigenous group of about 120 people dedicated to defending government-designated Indigenous territory. The group has often clashed with illegal loggers and farmers, many of whom are eager to slash, burn and kill for their land.

Lobo was a young father concerned about preserving the rainforest for the next generation.

"We have to preserve this life for our children's future," he told Reuters earlier this year, amid increasing violence along the forest's borders.

His nickname means "wolf" in Portuguese.

Critics say the Amazon's borders have been under siege since far-right president Jair Bolsonaro came to power in Brazil early this year. Bolsonaro has vowed to open up Indigenous lands — which usually include the rainforest — to agricultural development. He has also moved to weaken the government's legal protections for the Indigenous tribes living in the rainforest, including those who have no contact with the outside world.

READ MORE: Bolsonaro says world concern for Amazon rainforest sensationalized by ‘lying’ media

Brazil's Indigenous Missionary Council found 135 Indigenous people were murdered in 2018, up almost 23 per cent from 2017. The violence spiked after Bolsonaro was elected.

Bolsonaro faced intense criticism in the summer while wildfires were tearing through vast swaths of the forest. The president blamed non-government organizations without presenting any evidence, and he also raged against French President Emmanuel Macron, who urged him to take action.

Lobo's death on Friday sparked outrage from the APIB, the organization representing many of Brazil's 900,000 Indigenous people.

"The Bolsonaro government has Indigenous blood on its hands," the APIB said in a statement on Saturday.

Sonia Guajajara, leader of the APIB, blamed Bolsonaro for Lobo's death.

"It's time to stop this institutionalized genocide!" she tweeted in Portuguese. "Stop authorizing the bloodshed of our people!"

At least three Guardians of the Forest have previously been killed, according to Survival International, a non-profit group that advocates for uncontacted tribes in Brazil.

READ MORE: Sole survivor of a slaughtered Amazon tribe refuses all outside contact

Lobo talked about the dangers of defending the forest in an interview with Reuters.

“There is so much destruction of nature happening, good trees with wood as hard as steel being cut down and taken away," he said at the time. "We are protecting our land and the life on it, the animals and the birds, even the [Indigenous people] who are here too."

He also described how loggers would set up ambushes in the forest so they could shoot guardians in cold blood.

"I'm scared at times, but we have to lift up our heads and act," he added. "We are here fighting."

No arrests have been made.

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