April 12, 2008

"Messenger" vs. illegal loggers

Amazon tribe enlists Google in battle with illegal loggersYou may know it as Google, but in bamboo-and-thatch roundhouses deep in the Amazon rainforest the iconic brand goes by another name. The Surui people, one of the most remote on Earth, call it ragogmakan--"messenger"--and they're banking on the search engine to save them and their ancestral lands from extinction.

The tribe--whose first contact with the modern world was less than 40 years ago--are replacing their bows and arrows with hi-tech gadgets in their battle for survival. They have already begun using satnav on their traditional trails through the trees. And Google Earth has just agreed to provide high-resolution satellite images of their forest home.

The initiative is the brainchild of their chief, Almir Narayamoga Surui, who is leading their struggle against illegal loggers besieging their territory, an isolated 600,000-acre green oasis in Rondonia, in the wild Brazilian west. Last year the 34-year-old Almir visited Google near San Francisco to ask it to help monitor the loggers' incursions. He said he also hoped to be able to use the internet firm to "alert the world." He added: "We call Google ragogmakan because we hope it will help us get our message out."

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