The world's uncontacted tribes, and the threats they face

Uncontacted Indians in Brazil seen from the air during a Brazilian government expedition in May 2008
Uncontacted Indians in Brazil seen from the air during a Brazilian government expedition in May 2008

There are thought to be around 130 uncontacted tribes in the world today, the majority in Brazil.

Tribal people belonging to 240 tribes overall make up 0.4 per cent of Brazil's total population, but back in 1500 the country had 2,000 tribes.

Tribes all over the world face myriad threats to their continued existence, some of which we have documented below.


One of the few nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes left in Brazil, with only 355 surviving members.

© Domenico Pugliese/Survival. Contacted Awá number about 360, and it is thought that around 20-25 per cent more are uncontacted

Location: The eastern Amazon

Threats: Agro-industrial projects, cattle ranches, colonist settlements, illegal loggers and disease.


Have probably lived in the Andaman Islands for up to 60,000 years.

© Indian Coastguard/Survival: In the wake of the 2004 tsunami this member of the Sentinelese tribe was photographed firing arrows at a helicopter

Location: North Sentinel Island, India

Threats: Natural disasters (2004 tsunami), disease.


Known for their distinctive treehouses that tower over the jungle on spindly legs.

© Flickr/Creative Commons/♪ ~

Location: Papua New Guinea

Threats: Invasion by miners, plantation owners, loggers and others seeking the natural resources of tribal lands.


Uncontacted Indians. Fewer than 50 believed to be left.

© FUNAI: The uncontacted Kawahiva recorded during a rare chance encounter between the Indians and Brazilian government agents

Location: The Amazon, Brazil

Threats: Loggers invading their land and violently attacking them. Disease spread by outsiders as they do not have immunity to most common diseases.

The actor Mark Rylance is fronting a new campaign to urge the Brazilian government to create a rainforest reserve for the semi-nomadic Kawahiva tribe.

You can watch 'The Last Of the Kawahiva' film and read more about the Survival International campaign here.

With thanks to Survival International for the pictures.

More: How Valentine's Day is contributing to the rainforest's decline

The Conversation (0)