Shame of the human safaris: Tourists pay for jungle drive which treats primitive tribe like zoo animals

  • Jarawa tribe first made contact with the outside world in the late 1990s
  • Now hundreds of visitors go to remote Andaman Islands to gawp at natives
  • They toss scraps of food to half-naked tribespeople and order them to dance

One of the world's most primitive tribes is being humiliated on a daily basis - by tourists who pay to go on human safaris and treat them like animals in a zoo.

Hundreds of visitors to the remote Andaman Islands, north of the Equator in the Indian Ocean, queue up each day at dawn to drive through a jungle reserve set aside for the Jarawa tribe.

They then toss scraps of food to the half-naked natives, who only started making contact with the outside world in the late 1990s, and command them to dance.

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Exploitation: Hundreds of visitors to the remote Andaman Islands, north of the Equator in the Indian Ocean, queue up each day at dawn to drive through jungle set aside for the Jarawa tribe

Busy: The tours are technically illegal, and sold under the pretext of a trip to a local cave, but police turn a blind eye in exchange for bribes

The 403 tribe members should, in theory, be protected by strict laws on the Indian-run island. A sign at the gate to the 'enclosure' states: 'Don’t give any eatables to the Jarawas.

'Don’t indulge in photography, videography. Otherwise you will be liable for legal action ­including seizure of camera.'

But tourists can pay touts £350 to take part in the convoy, with local police taking a £200 cut and turning a blind eye to the exploitation.

Visitors are regularly seen throwing bananas and ­biscuits to tribe's people waiting at the side of the track. Similar scenes are seen across Britain as people feed animals in a zoo.

Photojournalist Gethin Chamberlain uncovered the tour, which is not advertised but sold under the pretext of a visit to local caves, in the islands' capital Port Blair.

He joined a tour run by Rajesh Vyas who said the tours were 'very popular' with the British.


Rules: There are signs, on entry into the Jarawa reserve area, clearly saying that photography and giving food to the tribe members is banned - but these are routinely ignored

Vyas said: 'It will cost 15,000 rupees (£182) to buy off the police and about the same for a car, driver, gifts for the Jarawa, biscuits, snacks. It is guaranteed.'

Police on the islands are told to arrest anyone caught taking pictures of tribe members. But officers have been seen ­pocketing a £200 bribe.

He then ordered a group of ­topless girls to dance for tourists. A video shows the youngsters refusing at first but swaying after he said: 'I gave you food.'

The Jarawa lived detached from the modern world until 1998, when one of them needed hospital treatment - and told the rest of the tribe about life away from the reserve. They now regularly visit local towns and settlements.

Degrading: Tribe members will dance in exchange for food and money from tourists

Denis Giles, editor of the campaigning Andaman Chronicle newspaper, said the Jarawa were being 'abused'. He said: 'They know they need to mix in the outside world but it should not be a culture shock – they should choose the pace at which they do it.

'Instead, they’re being thrust into ever closer proximity to tourists and other islanders. They believe the police are protecting them but the reality is they are being used.

'Officers have taught them how to beg and they take money the Jarawa collect and give them tobacco in return, which they have never used before.

'There have even been cases of Jarawa women having kids fathered by outsiders – but the babies are not accepted by the tribe and are killed.'

And Ajai Saxena, the government official responsible for the reserve, said: 'These tours do not respect the Jarawa.

'We have told the tour operators they must not stop but we cannot control every vehicle.'

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