The Endangered Survival Of Pygmies

The rain forests of Cameroon, Africa, is home to pygmies of the Baka clan. There are many pygmy clans that live in the rain forests, but those of the Baka clan are presently being deprived of their heritage. Members of this clan have lived peacefully in the jungles of equatorial Africa where they are concentrated in clearings, surrounded by heavy undergrowth, four degrees above and four degrees below the Equator, stretching from Cameroon’s Atlantic coast eastward to Lake Victoria, in Uganda. There are only 250,000 pygmies remaining. Their survival is presently endangered, while they exist at the mercy of the Bantu tribe, who are taller. The Bantu governments are gradually driving them out of their traditional rain forest haven from where they are being forced to move to the roadside. Bantus, brandishing machetes, continue to force their way into the clearings, from time to time, shouting humiliating commands that pygmies have to obey without hesitation. Bantu chiefs keep reminding the pygmies that they are subhuman and must do whatever they say and not whatever they want. The pygmies generally bow their heads with trepidation and dare not disobey orders.

Pygmy men are extremely short, less than four feet tall, and the women are even shorter. Members of the Baka clan live in beehive-shaped huts in clearings. They chop saplings from among the trees and thrust the ends into the ground, bending them to form the frame of each hut. Bundles of green leaves are woven to surround the hut so that those huts could be sheltered from the rain.

It is feared that the forests where pygmy culture originated will be taken away from them, mostly for the purpose of logging. There is an ongoing competition in progress between the pygmies and Bantus, but the latter has succeeded in overpowering the clan, gradually driving them out of their haven.

The word “Pygmy” comes from the Greek for “dwarfish.” Geneticists are learning more and more about pygmies. Those of other clans, living in the Ituru forest in Congo, are considered to be the smallest, no taller than four feet nine inches in height, and the women about three inches shorter. Researchers are still trying to determine why pygmies have evolved to be so diminutive.

Pygmies are hunters. Their favorite food is “mboloko.” It is a small antelope, the meat of which is considered to be a delicacy. Pygmies also hunt chimpanzees that scramble from tree to tree and are most of the time hidden in the foliage.

The culture of other pygmy clans, such as the Baka clan had already collapsed, as a result of intrusions by governments. Pygmy children suffer from many ailments, such as ear and chest infections, caused by lack of nutrition, while they are being gradually pushed out of the forests and forced into settlements elsewhere.

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