Rainforest activists murdered in Brazil


The bodies of Amazon rainforest activist Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo are carried to burial by friends and relatives, in the municipal cemetery of Maraba, in Brazil, on May 26, 2011. The identity of those responsible for the shooting in northern Brazil on Tuesday has not yet been determined, but da Silva predicted his own death six months ago, and was the recipient of frequent death threats by illegal loggers and cattle ranchers.

"I will protect the forest at all costs. That is why I could get a bullet in my head at any moment -- because I denounce the loggers and charcoal producers," he said.

Watch his speech at TEDxAmazonia, below, in which he says he believes killing trees in the rainforest is murder (click the "cc" button in the player for English subtitles).

The murders of da Silva and his wife took place as Brazil's Congress debates a divisive bill that threatens to further expand deforestation. Da Silva and Espirito Santo were active in the same organization of forest workers that was founded by legendary conservationist Chico Mendes. Al Jazeera has a video report here, and a first-person account from the funeral for the slain activist here.

More news coverage: NPR, New York Times, Guardian, Reuters, Telegraph.

Photos above and below: Reuters.




  1. Ask the Yanomamo about primary resource extraction and what its relationship is like for those close to it.

  2. Sad. Hope i’had heard of him before this end, 2 more brave humans lost for profits. Damn money

  3. This guy was a real life Lorax…he spoke for the trees. Depressing but not shocking turn of events, considering this age we live in. Thanks for linking to his TED talk, which is, sadly, all the more poignant now that he’s gone.

  4. Thank-you for this coverage of this terrible story.

    I have a friend in Brazil who alerted me to her family & friends (soil scientists and other conservationists) trying to help block the controversial Forest Code from being passed, which is a step backwards for Brazil’s forests–the kind of thing that da Silva was trying to stop. When I looked it up I discovered the news on Ze Claudio and was so upset. This reminded me also of what the Guarani and other indigenous tribes have been going through in Brazil for decasdes, which motivated me to investigate further. The result is this more in depth piece on the situation in Brazil behind this lawlessness, which Elephant Journal kindly posted: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/05/first-for-rubber-trees-then-the-amazon-now-i-realize-i-am-fighting-for-humanity–maria-lavis/

    There have been so many who have fallen while trying to protect Brazil’s forests. This is truly an outrage. I hope that these deaths do not, also, go in vain. It is time for this lawlessness & corruption in Brazil to finally stop being rewarded and put to an end, so that this history will not be repeated again.

    1. Thanks for mentioning the possible roll back of Brazil’s Forest Code. That’s the context for this recent violence. Activist in the Amazon, Congo and Indonesia (the big tropical rainforests left) face this kind of thing all the time, and my heart goes out for them.

      We all benefit from living on a world with healthy intact rainforests. These people are putting their lives at risk to protect them for us.

      Maybe I don’t have the time, or courage, to be there on the front lines with them, but I’ll definitely do whatever I can to back them up.

  5. > More news coverage: NPR, New York Times, Guardian, Reuters, Telegraph.

    Which is interesting, considering Gabriel Elizondo from Al Jazeera was the ONLY reporter there.

  6. Sad that they died, but they were seriously misguided, the Amazon is in no danger of disappearing, the multiple predictions from over 25 years ago failed to materialize, and now the Jungle is growing back.

    From the New York Times – Published: January 29, 2009

    Here, and in other tropical countries around the world, small holdings like Ms. Ortega de Wing’s — and much larger swaths of farmland — are reverting to nature, as people abandon their land and move to the cities in search of better livings.

    These new “secondary” forests are emerging in Latin America, Asia and other tropical regions at such a fast pace that the trend has set off a serious debate about whether saving primeval rain forest — an iconic environmental cause — may be less urgent than once thought. By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged or ravaged by natural disaster.

    1. So are you saying it’s OK to cut down the rainforest? And murder the people who try to protect it? Because THEY’RE seriously misguided? I don’t believe for one second that YOU are sad about this. In order to be sad you have to be able to feel.

      1. Oh brother. He sad they shouldn’t have died, and that their actions were misguided. Whether he’s right or utterly wrong: hysterical baseless response. Feeling is important, but reading and thinking count for something too, Tau.

        1. “He sad they shouldn’t have died” ????

          Well, he did not say “they should not have died,”

          he said, “Sad that they died,”.

          And he did not say “their actions were misguided” he said “they were seriously misguided.”

          I read, I think, and I’m not hysterical.

          My response was far from baseless, gravytop.

    2. Will the real Mr. Orwell please stand up?

      Right, I knew you weren’t the real deal because George was a lot more astute and didn’t base his arguments on spurious and very misguided crap science even if the New York Times did say so. They’ve misrepresented other issues in the past and this is no different.

      To your point that “…the Amazon is in no danger of disappearing, the multiple predictions from over 25 years ago failed to materialize, and now the Jungle is growing back.” Just read what you quoted, “These new “secondary” forests are emerging…” Jungle, or ‘secondary’ forest is NOT rainforest! I repeat JUNGLE is NOT rainforest. The rainforest is a very intricate and delicate balance of life that provides a wealth of biodiversity not found in it’s lesser cousin known as jungle. Certainly jungle is a precursor to rainforest reestablishment but it will still take decades if not centuries for true rainforest to take root again in the places that have been slashed and burned. Rainforest is like a layer cake, from ground to understory to the upper canopy. All parts are necessary for a properly functioning forest and the anchor for everything is in the giant trees that hold the soil in place, provide homes all the way up the ladder for other parts and protects everything underneath the canopy. Jungle does not have this quality and is no substitute for primeval rainforests. So your quote is crap and the argument based from it is misguided therefore your position is wrong.

      @Lobster, “It’s hard to point to a specific tree and say it is worth more than a specific human life.” I’m not sure if I am getting the right meaning from this so forgive me if I’ve misread your intention here but… while I respect human life I would also seriously consider trading certain human lives for certain arboreal lives. For example grinding up the murderous thugs who killed these activists into fertilizer for a couple of rainforest trees would bring me quite a bit of happiness and present very little in the way of moral dilemma.

      Also read Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Giving Tree’, it makes a very good point that is apt to this situation.

    3. exactly!!! regrowth forests CANNOT replace delicate rainforest habitat grown over thousands of years

    4. The NY Times is full of it.

      Those fifty acres they talk about are after bulldozing vast acres, and then planting one crop mono-cultures. The millions of different plants and their seeds that used to live on those acres are no longer on the land, so the regrowth is another monoculture.

      It will take thousands of years to approximate the variety of life forms that used to cover those lands.

      They were brave patriots to mother earth.

    5. Firstly salutes to the brave heros. @ E.A.Blair. This is not to annoy you, actually I am also partly influenced by Mathew Ridley’s optimism. Probably the forest are not disappearing and are growing back, and I think such phenomenons are happening because of such brave peoples. If there were no such peoples, logger would have eaten them already.

  7. Interesting to see this just after watching the movie preview for the documentary on the ELF.

  8. Correction: E.A. Blair wrote “they were seriously misguided,” I put a period in there above, my bad. I think and feel it’s very important we read and write accurately, gravy.

  9. It’s hard to point to a specific tree and say it is worth more than a specific human life. I can’t blame someone for wanting to feed their family.

    The thing is, once all the trees are gone, their family will still be there. Then what will they do? Shoot at the sky?

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