Four years after they first went on an expedition deep into the jungle of Brazil’s Javari Valley, Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira teamed up again, each working on a big new project to save the Amazon. It cost them their lives.
The British journalist and Brazilian Indigenous expert, both at a crossroads in life, had gravitated back to the far-flung region they visited together in 2018, home to an Indigenous reservation bigger than Austria.
On their 2018 trip, Pereira, then head of Brazilian Indigenous agency FUNAI’s program for isolated tribes, invited Phillips, then on assignment for The Guardian, to cover a grueling 17-day expedition into the thick of the rainforest.
The goal was to survey the lands occupied by an uncontacted tribe, to try to avoid conflicts with other ethnicities.
In his article, Phillips wrote admiringly of Pereira squatting by a campfire in flip-flops, eating a monkey’s brain for breakfast as he discussed policy.
Pereira, 41, had taken leave from FUNAI and set up a program to help Indigenous people detect and report invasions of their land by illegal loggers, miners and poachers.
On June 2, they set off by boat from Atalaia do Norte, a sleepy town at the juncture of the Itaquai and Javari rivers, so Pereira could show Phillips his project.
They planned to return on June 5. They never arrived.
Police say as the pair motored back to town that Sunday in a small boat, illegal fishermen sped up and shot them, then buried them in the forest.