Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira set off into the forest on 2 June for what was supposed to be a four-day trip. Phillips, who was a frequent contributor to the Guardian, was there to research a book he was writing, How to Save the Amazon. But by Sunday 5 June, they had not returned.
They had worked together before. In 2018, the photographer Gary Calton went with Phillips and Pereira on an expedition. At the time, Pereira was an official at the Brazilian government’s Indigenous agency Funai. He was tracking the movements of an uncontacted tribe from afar to ensure they remained protected. Pereira worked to help Indigenous communities protect their land – which is under constant threat from illegal fishing, miners and drug traffickers.
After the pair went missing, the Matis Indigenous group quickly launched a search and rescue mission. The Guardian’s Latin America correspondent, Tom Phillips, went with them down the River Itaquaí and witnessed personal items belonging to the pair being found. He tells Nosheen Iqbal about the search and the sluggish response from the Brazilian government.
On Monday, Phillips’ mother-in-law expressed her belief that the pair were no longer alive. “Their souls have joined those of so many others who gave their lives in defence of the rainforest and Indigenous peoples,” she said in an Instagram post. “Today they form part of an immense and pulsating vital energy that emanates from this immense greenery that is the heart of Brazil.”
On Tuesday night, the Brazilian authorities said they now considered the case to be a murder investigation.
Reporter Jonathan Watts became friends with Phillips in 2012 when he worked as the Guardian’s Latin America correspondent. He explains the urgent threat to the Amazon rainforest that the two men were trying to expose.
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