National Geographic : 1961 Jul
National Geographic, July, 1961 Finally we turn again, this time into the Rio Lever, a narrow, winding riverlet that rises in the south of the island. No one can live here during the high-water season, for then great expanses are flooded and form exten sive marshes. When we camp for the night on a dry sand bank, terns cry complainingly above. Near us we find some speckled gray eggs; naked baby birds run away from them and hide in the sand. Teemaree wants to handle the little birds, but their parents, with frightening cries, swoop close above his head. He does not dare follow the little ones any more. Teemaree Catches Bloodthirsty Piranhas Our main foods are rice, coffee, zwieback, and the bloodthirsty little fish called the pi ranha. The sun and air make the boy forget all his preferences. He is hungry and devours whatever we give him. Teemaree is proud of his ability to provide food for the family. Every five minutes he cries out, with a sparkling silver-and-red pi ranha dangling on his line. He does not yet realize how dangerous these fish are and wants to take them off the hook himself. One of us has to jump and take them off for him. The powerful snapping jaws could easily tear away a piece of his hand. In the morning we see water pigs-capy baras-lying on the riverbanks in the sun. A shot rings out; a capybara rears, plunges down the steep bank, and quickly disappears into the river. Our Indian companion fired the shot. Now he pokes about with a long pole until he has found the pig. He dives and brings the ani mal up intact. No piranha has bitten into it. Yet at noon, when we wash a leg of the water pig in shallow water, hordes of pira nhas swarm out of the depths and bite into The Author: Harald Schultz, father of Teema ree, has provided GEOGRAPHIC readers with unparalleled insights into the life of Brazil's re mote Indian tribes: "Children of the Sun and Moon," March, 1959, and "Tukuna Maidens Come of Age," November, 1959. The Brazilian-born, German-educated ethnologist has led many ex peditions for the Sao Paulo State Museum. Mrs. Schultz, also a member of the museum's staff, has shared many of her husband's adventures among primitive peoples. She recently completed several months of study in the United States under a fel lowship from the Organization of American States. the meat. So greedily do they hold on that we bring them in clusters onto dry land, where we shake them off. Naturally, no one - not even Teemaree - wants to bathe here. At dusk there is a great splashing and a tapir comes swimming across the river. Tee maree runs to the water, welcoming this new friend. He had no thought of hurting or kill ing it, so he is surprised when the animal turns and disappears into the water. All night we hear the wailing cry of the jaguar. He sneaks around our camp at a dis creet distance. Toward dawn his voice is no longer heard, and Teemaree looks both sorry and glad. He wants the jaguar to come near so he can see it, but he is afraid, too, and sleepy. Herons flap aloft at the approach of our boat. Black-headed storks stand on a sand bank. From a distance they look like a gath ering of philosophers, with their heads deeply bowed. Teemaree likes to see them flying. He jumps and cries, waving his arms. These long-legged birds run clumsily, flapping their wings and giving the appearance of an air plane taking off and retracting its landing gear. They are almost as big as Teemaree. Young Stork Gets Foster Father A chorus of screeching, whimpering, wail ing, and singing leads us to a nesting colony of storks. Numerous herons nest near by. Ground and trees are dead white from the birds' droppings. High up in a fork the parent storks crouch beside huge nests made of twigs. They peep down at us curiously and fly up only when we come close. Our Indian guide climbs a tree and brings down a half-grown black-headed stork. "There, take it. It's for you, Teemaree!" The present means catching more fish now, for the young bird's appetite is insatiable. Teemaree smiles proudly. "I'll catch plenty of piranhas for him. I'll take care of him. He is mine!" A few decades ago, the fauna in this re gion was abundant. Herds of water pigs grazed on the banks. Families of otters swam close to the boats of travelers, crying like humans. In the woods lived herds of wild pigs - peccaries - which the Indians killed with lances tipped with jaguar bone. There were thousands of caymans. These alligatorlike creatures lay sunning on the banks with their tooth-armed jaws wide open.