A human zoo, which features women from a protected tribe dancing for tourists in exchange for food, opened on India’s Andaman Islands.
Jarawa tribal women — some of them naked — are being lured to dance and sing for tourists and to live in a “Jarawa Habitat”.
Under Indian laws designed to protect ancient tribal groups susceptible to outside influence and disease, photographing or coming into contact with the Jarawa and some of the Andaman aborigines had been banned, but the Indian government seems to be looking the other way on the Human Zoo.
The tribe, thought to have been among the first people to migrate successfully from Africa to Asia, lives a nomadic existence in the lush, tropical forests of the Andamans in the Indian Ocean.
India’s Tribal Affairs Minister Sanjay Krishnabba Chandra said that they are looking into the situation to make sure that all the women in the zoo are treated properly – feed, bathed and cared for on a daily basis.
Many Indian citizens are outraged about the Human Zoo.
“It’s deplorable. You cannot treat human beings like beasts for the sake of money. Whatever kind of tourism is that, I totally disapprove of that and it is being banned also,” an Indian MP added.
Survival International, which lobbies on behalf of tribal groups worldwide, say videos of tourists apparently enjoying “human zoos” and they were extremely upset.
“Quite clearly, some people’s attitudes towards tribal peoples haven’t moved on a jot. The Jarawa are not circus ponies bound to dance at anyone’s bidding,” said Marcus Latman, the group’s director, in a press release.
State anthropologist K. Cawalla, who works on the Andaman islands, seemed to like the zoo concept.
“Before the 2004 tsunami, people might have forced them to dance for free without feeding them, clothing them. They now have a job. Yes, they are held captive, but they are living well and they are stars!”
There was a Caucasian zoo in Canada last year but it closed because of lack of interest. The “humans” were boring, dull and… as some tourists said “ugly”:
In June last year, Survival International accused eight Indian travel companies of running “human safari tours” so tourists could see and photograph the Jarawa.
A London-based group called for tourists to boycott the road used to enter the reserve of the Jarawa tribe, who number just 403 and are in danger of dying out. But there are three other London-based groups offering special “Human Zoo” packages.
The Andaman and Nicobar tropical island chain is home to four other rare tribes — Onge, the Great Andamanese, the Sentinelese and the Shompens — each numbering fewer than 350 members.