Catching illegal loggers deep in the Amazon with ‘Guardians of the Amazon’: Part 1

The indigenous people of the Brazilian Guajajara tribe are taking it upon themselves, risking life and limb, to track and apprehend illegal loggers in their ancestral land.
9:50 | 02/19/20

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Transcript for Catching illegal loggers deep in the Amazon with ‘Guardians of the Amazon’: Part 1
Reporter: We're on the eastern edge of the Amazon and visiting a tribe who say they're under assault by illegal loggers. About 20 miles ahead we're going to have our first meeting with a group called the guardians of the forest. As night falls we meet the leader of what is essentially an indigenous paramilitary group. He's agreed to let us embed with his troops as they launch an extended patrol through the junk jungle. This is a dangerous trek. Over the past two decades, more 80 of his people have been killed defending their land. It is a rare, inside view of a story the world has been watching since the Amazon began burning last summer. Thousands of fires raging across Brazil. The Amazon rainforest is taking a beat being. Deforestation rates have nearly doubled. One report claims that the equivalent of three soccer fields are being destroyed. Indigenous of people are on the front lines to save their land. Reporter: You guys have a lot of weapons, but these men may be heavily armed, too. Do you get nervous before you do this? Reporter: Scientists say the Amazon may be at a crucial tipping point, where instead of mitigating climate change it begins to exacerbate it. Brazilian law has special protections for indigenous territories giving them the legal right to patrol their land. We've just pulled up on a village where the guardians have been told that two outsiders were recently hired to guard an illegal logging operation. He is wearing a body camera. Reporter: These two young men who they found outside this building are delivering shifting stories, at first saying they had nothing to do with the logging operation here, then saying they were forced to work by the boss. You got a little rough with these young men over here. What was your thinking there? Reporter: One of the men admits he is lying and hands over his phone to the guardians. On it, they find this. Videos and pictures that provide clear evidence of illegal logging. 80% of the deforestation in the Amazon is the result of the cattle industry. After loggers have cut down the most valuable trees, the land is burned and turned into cattle pasture, and the people say the incursions onto their land have escalated since the election of the far-right president known at "Trump of the tropics" who has openly called for the development of the Amazon. The guardians say they're not just fighting to protect their own home. On their land lives another small tribe. They've had no contact with the outside world other than this reported sighting captured last year by a member of this tribe. Last night they busted the lower-level folks involved with this illegal logging operation. Now they're going up this path, where the actual illegal loggers will be at work, and they're fully expecting these men to be armed. Among the people leading the charge, Paulo, his number two. They get close to what they believe are multiple logger camps, so the guardians fan out. Paulo leads the larger group of while lauricio runs point in a smaller unit. He sees something through the trees. Reporter: They're marching this prisoner deeper into the forest. They're making the prisoner call out to his colleagues. Reporter: Through the woods, Paulo's search party sees something. Reporter: All told, the guardians capture seven loggers, proof of the men's activities are scattered across the campsite. Reporter: Even notes on how much they cut down and profits made. This wood goes to local cattle ranchers who build fences around their area, and they're selling the stakes for those fences, and it even shows here how much money they're making. Why did you agree to do this work? Reporter: These are low-level people you're dealing with here. How do you go after the boss? [ Is speaking in foreign language ] Reporter: As an added deterrent to stop the loggers from coming back, lauricio burns the timber they cut down. Normally, the guardians' next move would simply be to expel the loggers from their land, but he tells us they're going to do something they've never done before, bring the suspects to federal authorities seven hours away. A dangerous mission deep into enemy territory. Stay with us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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