Illegal fishermen encroach on world's most isolated tribe

November 20, 2014

Due to their isolation the Sentinelese of India’s Andaman Islands are the most vulnerable society on the planet. They face increasing threats from illegal fishermen who are targeting their waters. © Indian Coastguard/Survival

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Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has received worrying reports that illegal fishermen are targeting the waters around the island home of the uncontacted Sentinelese tribe on India’s Andaman Islands.

Seven men identified as Burmese fishermen were apprehended by the Indian Coast Guard near North Sentinel Island earlier this month. Worryingly, one man was reportedly found on the island itself, in close proximity to the uncontacted tribespeople.

The Sentinelese are the most vulnerable society on the planet and reject any contact with outsiders. Due to their complete isolation, they are likely to have no immunity to common diseases such as flu and measles and the chances of them being wiped out by an epidemic are very high.

Survival International has welcomed the authorities’ swift action in apprehending the illegal fishermen around North Sentinel and urges them to remain vigilant. It also calls for an end to the daily intrusions into the forest of the neighboring Jarawa tribe as a matter of urgency.

The Jarawa, who inhabit islands neighboring the Sentinelese, face daily intrusions into their land by tourists and poachers. © Survival

The Jarawa are forced to endure “human safaris” – hundreds of tourists passing through their forest on a daily basis in the hope of spotting a member of the tribe – as well as poachers stealing their game. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Jarawa women are being sexually abused by poachers who lure them with alcohol and marijuana.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, “The Great Andamanese tribes of India’s Andaman Islands were decimated by disease when the British colonized the islands in the 1800s. The most recent to be pushed into extinction was the Bo tribe, whose last member died only four years ago. The only way the Andamanese authorities can prevent the annihilation of another tribe is to ensure North Sentinel Island is protected from outsiders.”