On The Brink Of Extinction: 14 Stunning Photos Of The Awa Amazon Tribe!

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Deep in the Amazon lives the world's most endangered tribe, an ancient group who trudge through the forests of eastern Brazil carrying everything they own - their children, their weapons and their pets. They have been pushed to the brink of extinction by European colonists who enslaved them and ranchers who stole the land they need to survive. And yet, they live in complete harmony with their jungle home. Most Awa families adopt several wild animals as pets and remarkably, the women breastfeed them until they are fully grown. These people are so close to being wiped out forever, that they are kept safe, away from the modern world. As a result, very few people have ever met the Awa. Photographer Domenico Pugliese is one of those lucky enough to spend time with this remarkable tribe - and even became a source of amusement for them.

The Awa tribe lives deep in the Amazon in such perfect harmony with their jungle home that they even breast feed the animals.

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Pugliese said: 'They feed the squirrels and monkeys like they feed their kids, breast feeding. 'It highlights how far we have come from where we were. They are so close to nature. In fact, it is not even close - they are part of nature.'

The tribe's children grow up with animals by their sides, as most Awa people adopt several wild creatures as family pets.

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Pugliese first met the Awa in 2009, after a journalist friend suggested he accompany him and an anthropologist on the two-day journey down the river to then unprotected piece of rainforest the tribe called home.

'They heard the sound of the speedboat's engine and they came down to the river bank,' he recalled. 'The impact was like being in another world. The sensation could not be explained.'

Few people have made contact with the Awa tribe after the colonists had brought the tribe to the brink of extinction.

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What the Awa thought of this stranger arriving in their world was not immediately clear - but they soon found something to laugh at. 'They do not understand what a grown man is doing being single, without a family. They look at me and they try to give me advice. They do not know where I am coming from. They do not have a concept of the world. 'I cannot explain to them where I'm coming from, I can't explain the lifestyle to them. For them, it is unbelievable to be a man who does not have a family.'

Family is all important to the Awa, and it is not confined to humans.

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Their pets, who help them are as much a part of the family as their children.

The animals help them with everyday tasks such as cracking nuts, gathering fruit from high trees and even watching over them while they sleep,

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They keep wild pigs, squirrels, parakeets, and large rodents known as agoutis but their favourite pets are monkeys.

There are only 400 or so remaining today. Around 60 of them have never had any contact with the outside world.

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In 1835, after centuries of oppression, the tribes of Maranhao rose up against their European rulers in a five year revolt that ended in the mass extermination of around 100,000 indigenous people throughout the state. With their new, nomadic lifestyle, they lost the knowledge of farming or even how to light a fire.

Almost all of them were wiped out by diseases including smallpox, measles and flu imported by the colonists. Those who survived were enslaved and put to work on rubber and sugar cane plantations.

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A young boy with one of his family's adopted pets, which even once returned to the wild are still considered a member of the tribe.

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Even if it returns to the forest, they will recognise it as 'hanima' - or part of the family.

Despite being so in harmony with nature, they have to struggle with the fires that swarm over the Amazon forests. These fires are thought to have been caused by farm owners who want to convert the land into a field.

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Tatuxa'a, an Awa spokesman says: 'We need the government to help us. We alone cannot put out the fires, as there are many. The forest is rich with fruit and game... and it is all being destroyed! Our stream is drying up too. Where will we hunt? Where will we collect honey? I am very sad and worried today.'

In 1835, after centuries of oppression, the tribes of Maranhao rose up against their European rulers in a five year revolt that ended in the mass extermination of around 100,000 indigenous people throughout the state.

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The primates are an important source of food to the Awa but once a baby has been brought into the family and breast fed, they will never eat it.

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A tribe member poses for a photographer from Survival International, which has campaigned for the protection of the group.

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In 1982, the World Bank and EU gave Brazil a loan of around £600million to protect the lands of its indigenous people but illegal loggers continued to threaten their existence for another 30 years. Around 450 tribespeople were murdered between 2003 and 2010, according to the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI). Three years ago, an eight year old Awa girl was said to have been burned alive by 'ranchers' when she strayed outside her protected land.

Outsiders can easily destroy the delicate balance of the tribe, even with seemingly harmless gifts such as t-shirts.

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But the Awa are particularly fond of t-shirts.

'They love to have t-shirts,' Pugliese said. 'I don't know where they think the t-shirts come from - they can't imagine a factory. 'Maybe they think it is coming from the trees. After all, every day, they get their shopping from the jungles.'

A woman with a child while bathing in a river in the middle of the forest, which is slowly being eradicated by fire and farming.

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