Now, Ani believes hope for the tribe hinges on a plan proposed by Chagnon through FUNDAFACI, Venezuela's native rights organization. Under the plan, known as "Biosphere," the Yanomamo themselves, as well as their lands in Venezuela, would be protected from exploitation and development. At the center of the project is a nonpartisan medical facility that would serve the Yanomamo and, eventually, Indians in neighboring areas.
Working with FUNDAFACI and with American environmental organizations such as RAN, Ani's Amazonia Foundation and Chagnon's Yanomamo Survival Fund are teaming to coordinate speaking engagements and benefit concerts to fund Biosphere.
Some American environmentalists involved in the Amazon charge that Ani, like Chagnon, is too hotheaded, "too Yanomamo," to lead a successful cultural rescue. But Ani calls the charges "more foolishness."
"I've actually seen people in the Amazon in little boats in pink leotards, supposedly using telepathy to 'call' pink river dolphins that feed there every day at the same time anyway. It's simply ludicrous," he says. "I'm trying to get something done in the jungle, for God's sake."
Day or night, friends say, he's possessed by thoughts of the jungle and grieved by the Yanomamo plight. But for Ani, it's more personal than that.
"If the forest perishes, where will the untamed like (Chagnon) and me go?" he asks. "Like the Yanomamo, part of us will die with it."