For more than half a century, mothers in the Bishnoi tribe in Rajasthan have been breastfeeding wild fawns along with their own children.
“These baby deer are my life and they’re like my own children,” said Mangi Devi Bishnoi, 45, a housewife from one of the villages.
Shocking as the sight is for outsiders, women in the tribe consider animals just as much a part of the family as their own offspring. “I feed them milk and food and ensure they’re given proper care and attention in the house like all my family members,” she added.
Bottle feeding outstrips breastfeeding rate in Pakistan
The Bishnoi tribe takes in orphaned and injured fawns which would otherwise not be able to survive on their own. “They are not orphans when they have us around, they have new mothers like me who offer them a mother’s feed for a healthy life.”
The people of the Bishnoi community, a religious group of nature worshippers, live next to jungles and deserted areas and often grow up playing with all sorts of animals. The community, which comprises of around 2,000 homes, have followed the Hindu Guru Sri Jambeshwar Bhagwan since the 15th century and religiously obey 29 rules suggested by their Guru. One of them is protection and love of animals and nature.
“I have grown up with these little deers. They’re like my brother or sister. It is our responsibility to keep them healthy and help them grow. We play with them and we communicate with each other, they understand our language,” Roshini Bishnoi, 21, a student in one of the villages, told Mail Online.
Breastfeeding advocacy: Experts call for facilitating working women
The deer is believed to be a sacred animal of the community and is given special attention. “We have followed this way of living for over 550 years with a lot of love and affection,” another local, Ram Jeevan, 24, said.
“My parents have never differentiated between a baby deer and me. We are one family and it is in our religion to protect them. We are very protective of our animals, especially the babies. We are helping them. Feeding them is what they need. We are very proud of what we do,” he added.
This article originally appeared on Daily Mail