Contacting the Sentinelese

Dr Suguthan, Ornithologist and an ardent disciple of the late Dr Salim Ali, was one of the first people from mainland India to have come into contact with the Sentinelese tribe in the Andamans. He went there in the late 70’s as part of his research to find the Red Coconut Crab. The only contact the tribe has had is with the British forces, in the colonial era.

How the researcher stepped on the two islands makes for a wonderful story: every 15 days, based on the moon’s phases, the 600-odd people of the Sentinelese tribe move from North Sentinel Island to the South Sentinel Island, and back.

The tribe still practices hunting and gathering, like way before 10,000 years ago, before the development of agriculture. Dr Suguthan found that the tribe reacts violently (with bows and arrows) to outsiders because they have seen how the people form mainland or abroad have tried to contact them and move into their territories. They reject all forms of contact now. It is only when they felt their home and habitat threatened did they start attacking outsiders who come to their islands.


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