Photographer Andrew Newey has captured a series of photos documenting the risky lives of the so-called honey hunters, a group of honey-gathering people living in Nepal.
Nepal is mostly known as a country that allows thrill-seekers fans to visit the Himalayas, a mountain range the includes the world’s tallest peaks. However, UK-based photographer Andrew Newey has paid a visit to the country in search of a different activity.
The photographer has found out about a centuries-old tradition that the Gurung tribesmen are still practicing today. It is called honey hunting and this activity is facing serious threat from commercialization as well as the declining numbers of both bees and honey hunters.
Andrew Newey has packed his camera and has decided to spend a couple of weeks in Nepal in December 2013. The Gurung tribesmen were hunting honey for three days and the photographer has managed to capture a collection of impressive documentary photos.
Honey hunting photos captured by Andrew Newey in the Himalayan foothills
Somewhere in the foothills of the Himalayas, male members of the Gurung tribe are risking their lives in order to collect honey. Armed with long sticks, called tangos, and rope ladders, they will spend three days collecting honey from angry bees, which have set their nests on steep cliffs.
The hunters will start a fire at the bottom of the cliffs in order to create a lot of smoke. This way the bees will get out of the nests, while unleashing their fury on the hunters.
In order to collect honeycombs, team effort, that will keep you alive, is needed. Falling from such heights could be fatal and it does not help that you are fighting against swarms of Apis Laboriosa, the world’s largest honey bee.
Ensuring a safe hunt also involves some ancient ceremonies, such as sacrificing a goat, praying to the cliff gods, and offering flowers.
Commercialization and climate change are major threats to this tradition
The ages-old activity is under serious threat from commercialization, climate change, and decreasing honey bee population. For example, honey hunting was delayed for six weeks in 2013 and took place in December instead of during the fall.
Big companies have also learned about this activity and they are now creating special honey hunting events, allowing tourists to hunt honey. This damages the nests and bees have little time to recover in order to be able to sustain a high bee population.
Moreover, Gurung youngsters are choosing to move to the city in search for work. Many are saying that it is too dangerous to go honey hunting and the benefits are too few.
Honey hunting also occurs in May when bees will create the “Red” honey that is used in traditional medicine. Contractors hire people to gather the honey, which will be sold for $15 per kilogram in Japan, China, and South Korea.
More honey hunting photos and details can be found at the photographer’s official website.