The Use and Knowledge of Herpetofauna on Little Nicobar Island, India

The island of Little Nicobar in the southern Nicobars is the least developed of all the inhabited islands in the archipelago. The Nicobarese are one of the few tribal communities who are exempt from the provisions of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. Studies on the use of wildlife in the Nicobars are rare in spite of the knowledge and use of species for consump­tion and sustenance. This article focuses on the ethnobiology of herpetofauna in Little Nicobar and the methods of use. This was part of a larger study on the food production and procurement strategies of the 'Payuh', who are the ethnic group of islanders who identify themselves as such on the island of Lit­tle Nicobar and surrounding regions; the term 'Payuh' is in use even in the Nancowry group of islands and on the south western coast of Great Nicobar Island but these populations are culturally distinct in many ways. Though local communities have lived off forests and fauna for many years, and occu­pied the coast for habitation and conversion into plantations, wild species still persist on the island in less disturbed habitats, unlike other islands in the archipelago. This article details the way these islanders describe the herpeto­fauna.

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