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North Sentinel Island
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    Part of the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean
    Governed by India
    Area: 23 square miles (60 square kilometers) – about the same size as Manhattan Island
    Population: between 39 (number of individuals seen during a government census, 2001) and 400 (estimated maximum population that can be supported by the island’s resources)
    Its inhabitants refuse contact with the rest of the world, usually reacting violently to intruders.
    Chinese and Arab traders who tried to land there around 1000 AD described the natives as three feet tall with human bodies and bird beaks. (Of course, they probably did not get the best view while dodging the hail of arrows that greeted them.)
    They wounded the director with an arrow when National Geographic attempted to film a documentary about them (1974).
    During three decades of ‘contact visits’ by the Indian government (1967-96), the islanders were willing to accept gifts (like coconuts and bananas) thrown in the water or dropped on the beaches, but would react to visitors lingering for more than a few minutes by firing warning shots of arrows without arrowheads attached.
    Their language is unintelligible to even other Andamanese tribes, so no one knows what the natives call themselves.
    It is estimated that they have been completely isolated for 40,000 years.
    Refusing contact with outsiders was a smart move, considering that the other Andamanese tribes suffered massive population losses after being exposed to diseases like smallpox and measles.
    To protect the natives, the Indian government declared the island and a three-mile island exclusion zone around it off limits.
    They apparently survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami fairly unscathed. (Or at least, any losses they suffered did not make them desperate enough to welcome outside help, as warriors with bows and arrows drove off a naval helicopter sent to check on the island and drop food parcels on the beach.)

Credit: C. Fishel

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