Where to avoid cannibalism on your travels
You’ve read the guidebook front to back, know what dangers await in local waters, and what hoaxes to look out for. YOU'RE READY! Except, no one warned you about the dangers of becoming a cannibal tribe’s next meal. Surprise! Cannibalism's still alive and medium-well, so don't get lured in by these places' beauty.
Southeastern Papua New Guinea
The Korowai tribe are among the last people on earth to for-real eat people on the regular. The further up the Ndeiram Kabur River you go, the less contact with foreigners these tribes have had, and the more likely they are to eat you.
What they ate: The still-warm brains of witch doctors were considered a real treat.
Why they ate it: When someone in the tribe died, it was obviously not because of natural causes or disease, it was due to black magic. Ergo, an evil spirit must've been lurking in a fellow tribe member, who should consequently be identified, killed, and eaten to protect everyone else.
Famous food?: In 1961, Michael Rockefeller, son of then-New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, vanished while collecting artifacts from another Papuan tribe; his body was never found.
The northern Indian Hindu sect of the Aghori claim to only eat volunteers who've donated their bodies... However, in 2005, an Indian TV crew captured an Aghori munching on a decomposing corpse found floating in the Ganges, and rumor has it that they steal bodies from cremation ghats (funeral pyres) for snacks.
What they ate: Unclear, but presumably the whole shebang.
Why they ate it: They believe(d) eating someone else’s flesh prevents aging.
Souvenir: They make really nice human bone jewelry and skull bowls.
Previously known as the 'Cannibal Isles' before the tourism board re-branded, we’re still not entirely convinced everyone's received the cease and desist order.
What they ate: Only enemy tribes, which is nice. Once bitten to death, the victim was dismembered and grilled over a fire-pit for everyone to feast on.
Why they ate it: It was a humiliation ritual meant for revenge.
Fun fact: Fijian cannibals weren’t animals – they had special-occasion, human-eating cutlery: forks that are now rare collectibles, which you can check out in the historical Fiji Museum, the Penn Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, the Burke Museum, and the National Museum of Ireland.
The Wari’ tribe of Brazil was known to eat their dead in pious religious ceremonies until the 1960s, when party pooper government missionaries told them to cut it out. However, in 1994, poverty in the city of Olinda’s slums was blamed for a noticeable spike in cannibalism.
What they ate: Starving slum-dwellers allegedly ate human body parts they found in the city’s garbage dump… what body parts were doing there in the first place, we can’t say.
Why they ate it: Poverty and starvation. However, the 2012 human flesh empanada makers belonged to a sect, and claimed to be following orders from a "voice" that told them to turn evil women into delicious pastries.
The Leopard Society actively ate folks (preferably tourists) until the mid-1900s -- some even say up until the ’80s. Found mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, these guys went wild and pretended to be leopards, dressed in leopard skins, and killed unsuspecting travelers with leopard claw- and fang-like weapons.
What they ate: The juiciest bits would be cut from victims’ bodies and distributed among members of the society.
Why they ate it: They thought it would make them stronger… like actual leopards.
Fun fact: They had a sister society – the Human Alligator Society. You can imagine what went down there.
Journalist Neil Davis reported that cannibalism was rampant during the South East Asian wars of the 1960s and 1970s.
What they ate: Cambodian troops ate the livers of their enemies.
Why they ate it: Many folks in towns and villages under Khmer Rouge control, where food was strictly rationed, nibbled on human flesh because they were starving, though any civilian caught doing so'd be executed.
The latest known instances of cannibalism in the Congo were as recent as 2012, though they peaked during the Congolese Civil War from 1999 to 2003.
What they ate: During ongoing guerrilla warfare among rebel groups, anyone deemed an enemy was eaten, though Pygmies were a fave back in the day. The body part of choice was the victim’s heart, made delicious with special herbs and potions.
Why they ate it: The Congolese believed eating a person's heart gave you their strength. So basically, they ate people to get stronger and scare off their enemies, to whom a normal death had become almost commonplace during the war.