Indian Coast Guard Protect The world's last isolated humans

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They may well be the last humans left on the planet who remain totally isolated from modern civilization.

But rare footage has emerged of the indigenous Sentinelese tribe, located on North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean - which is so hostile to visitors that nearly every attempt at contact with them in the past has been met with violence.

Two fisherman were slaughtered by the Sentinelese in 2006 for drawing too close, and tribesman have been known to fire arrows and fling rocks at low-flying planes or helicopters on reconnaissance missions.

In a collection of footage from a mini-documentary which has racked up close to two million views on YouTube, members of the tribe are seen gesturing in a clearly aggressive manner at cameramen who were hoping to interact with the tribe.

The Sentinelese are thought to be direct descendants from the first humans who emerged from Africa, and have lived on the island for more than 60,000 years.

It's almost impossible to say how many of them remain on the landmass - which is about the size of Manhattan and is part of India’s chain of Andaman Islands - but estimates have come in at anywhere between 40 and 500.

'It doesn't matter whether you are a friend or enemy, whether you arrived on purpose or by accident, the locals will greet you the same way with spears and arrows,' the narrator states.

'Gifts of food and clothing are of no importance to them.'

Indeed, following the 2004 tsunami, which hit several regions of the Indian Ocean, helicopters from the Indian Coast Guard were sent to help the Sentinelese and drop food parcels. One of the tribesmen responded by firing an arrow at the rescue team.

In 1967, the Indian government begun making attempts to contact the Sentinelese, led by anthropologist T. N. Pandit, who would leave the tribe gifts and try to signal to them.

'Sometimes they would turn their backs to us and sit on their haunches as if to defecate,' Pandit remarked of his mission.

Gifts of food and clothing are of no importance to them

'This was meant to insult us as were not welcome.'

In March 1970, Pandit's group found themselves cornered in their boats after coming too close to shore. An eyewitness from a different boat reported at the time: 'They all began shouting some incomprehensible words. We shouted back and gestured to indicate that we wanted to be friends.

'The tension did not ease. At this moment, a strange thing happened — a woman paired off with a warrior and sat on the sand in a passionate embrace. This act was being repeated by other women, each claiming a warrior for herself, a sort of community mating, as it were. Thus did the militant group diminish.

According to the documentary's narrator, there has only been one instance in which outsiders did not have to face an aggressive reception.

On January 4th 1991, 28 men, women and children approached Mr Pandit and his group without hostility before retreating into the forest in a gesture he called 'incredible'.

Indian authorities have since made it a crime to try to make contact with the Sentinelese. It is illegal to go within three miles of the island.

But the waters surrounding the island appear to be under threat by illegal fishermen.

Sentinelese tribespeople ward off the Indian coast guard in 1990

Survival International reported in 2014 that it had received reports that fishermen are targeting the area, with seven men being apprehended by the Indian Coast Guard.

One of the fishermen reportedly stepped foot on the island in close proximity to the tribe’s members, and he managed to leave unscathed.

The group, which advocates for tribal peoples’ rights, describes the Sentinelese as ‘the most vulnerable society on the planet’ as they are likely to have no immunity to common diseases such as flu and measles.

Due to their complete isolation, the chances of them being wiped out by an epidemic are very high, according to the organisation.

ARE THE SENTINELESE IN DANGER OF BEING WIPED OUT?
Survival International, which advocates for tribal peoples’ rights, describes the Sentinelese as ‘the most vulnerable society on the planet’ as they are likely to have no immunity to common diseases such as flu and measles.

Due to their complete isolation, the chances of them being wiped out by an epidemic are very high, according to the organisation.

In a statement, Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said: ‘The Great Andamanese tribes of India’s Andaman Islands were decimated by disease when the British colonised 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.’

The organisation said the islanders are ‘extremely healthy, alert and thriving’, despite threats from the outside world and their 'old world' way of life.

Their hostility towards outsiders can at least be partially attributed to past conflicts. Survival International said 'the outside world has brought them little but violence and contempt'.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s several tribespeople were killed in battles with armed salvagers who visited the island to recover iron and other goods from a shipwreck.
 

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