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Living Wisely - Part 2 (35 of 40)
On a good day in the jungles of Bangladesh a honey hunter's biggest worry is the sting of a giant bee that burns like a red-hot needle. But on other days, they face something far more deadly: Bengal tigers up to 10 feet long that lie silently in ambush, baring canine teeth as big as spikes, hungry for the taste of people.
Squeezed between the jungle and thousands of expanding shrimp farms more than 100,000 villagers risk tiger attacks to fish, cut trees and gather honey in the jungle.
"We don't have any other way out," said Mohabbat Mali, a honey hunter for more than 30 years. "We are poor people in dire straits and we have to depend on the jungle for our survival."
Many villagers enter the jungle to cut trees for fishing boats or
to supply factories with hardwood to make furniture or buildings.
Honey hunters often have the most treacherous job, searching for bees' nests in vegetation so dense that the only way through is on hands and knees.
Each spring the honey hunters rent boats for their journey through the vast muddy saltwater rivers that meander around the thousands of jungle islands. They have to stock up on food and supplies for trips that can last up to three months. These honey hunters wager everything, including their lives, against pirates and whims of wild animals, including pythons, king cobras, crocodiles and the man-eating Bengal tigers. The lure of liquid gold is stronger than their fears because they can make twice as much money as fishing.
Finding bees in the tangled jungle canopy 70 feet is hard enough without the treat of an animal attacking you. Climbing the trees barehanded, with smoldering leaves to smoke angry giant bees from their next long enough to get to the honey requires great skills and steady nerves. The bees gather and form a wall to defend the honeycomb. Rare is the honey hunter that hasn't been stung by ...
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