The global excitement over the discovery that dwarfed pre-humans, cutely nicknamed hobbits, existed in Southeast Asia at least until the last Ice Age contrasts sharply with the almost complete lack of interest in the fact that races of dwarfed modern humans continue to cling precariously to existence in the same region. Besides the fairly well-known Pygmies of Africa, there are several groups of pygmy negritos in Southeast Asia and, at least until very recently, even in Australia, as this 1938 picture from Queensland shows.
Indeed, as Keith Windschuttle and Tim Gillin have pointed out, the very existence of pygmy negritos in Australia was completely written out of the record after the 1960s in order to promote the politically correct position that all of Australias pre-Western inhabitants were racially identical.
More pressing is the fate of the remaining pygmy negritos of the Andaman Islands, a colony of India in the Indian Ocean south of Burma. They appear to be a remnant of the first Out-of-Africa wave of modern humans. Adults are under five feet tall, and the women are so steatopygous that when an Andamanese mother is carrying her toddler around, she simply has the child stand on her platform-like buttocks. (Theres a picture in Carelton Coons Living Races of Mankind that you have to see to believe.)
Q: Whats been happening to the Jarawa tribe in the Andamans?
A: In the last few years, the Jarawa tribe has largely given up its old hostility toward all outsiders. The result was predictable: a large number of diseases have struck and violent crime is on the rise. The latest reports received privately speak of 50 percent infection rate with Hepatitis B among Jarawas (only a few months ago it was said to be 30 percent). Other diseases are rampant and one official has carelessly let slip that there is AIDS among the Jarawa. Officially, of course, all is well.
You had better heed local advice when meeting with Jarawa. Thanks to grossly incompetent government policies in the past, you are likely to meet them on the Andaman trunk road where they will hijack your bus and not be satisfied with a handshake, but instead will demand goodiesor else. Such is progress in the Andamans.
Q: Why are Andamanese so vulnerable to the outside world?
A: They have been isolated from other people for a long time and have never had a chance to develop resistance against outside diseases. The Andamanese do have a limited immunity against malaria (a very ancient human scourge), but the common cold or an ordinary flu, let alone pneumonia, measles or venereal diseases, can be deadly to them.
Q: Whats special about the North Sentinel Islanders?
A: They are the only Andamanese group that is today still as isolated as all the Andamanese were in the past. That they live on a coral-fringed island in stormy waters has protected them until now from those do-gooders who would bring them into the mainstream of Indian society, as the nationalist phrase has it. For just what this expression means in reality, the Jarawa situation provides an all too clear illustration.
Q: Is their future safe?
A: Missions of friendship to the Sentineli have started only a few years ago. Just as with the Jarawa, most were junkets for visiting VIPs, camouflaged by being called scientific. They were hurriedly aborted after the Jarawa catastrophe burst over the guilty administrators at Port Blair, the main city of the Andamans. At the moment, the Sentineli are left alone again and all development plans have been put on ice. May they long remain there.
These little people dont have chimp-sized brains like the extinct Flores Islander species announced yesterday. They are modern humans, just like you and me, except they have practically no immunities to the rest of the worlds germs. You would think that 1% of the attention given to the preservation from extinction of pandas or the Florida panther or whatever would be given to helping save our fellow humans, but, no, human biodiversity conservation is not on anybodys agenda today. See, if you say its important to preserve human biodiversity, then you have to admit human biodiversity exists, and thats a no-no.