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Friday, 7 September 2007

Birth Dearth threatens India's Parsi community

The Parsees of Bombay, due to several aspects of their unique culture, have exerted an influence on India far out of proportion to their numbers, which have never been over 100,000 but are now dropping at an alarming rate.

Due to their high emphasis on education and getting established in business or career, most Parsees put off marriage until later adulthood, with many never marrying at all. Women hate to put all that education to waste by staying home to raise large broods of children, so even those who do marry are limiting their family size to one or two children.

This unsustainable birth rate has caused demographers to predict that the Parsi population will drop in half with each succeeding generation unless something happens to reverse the trend.

Alongside the dearth of new Parsees is a dearth of their mortuary agents, the vultures who have traditionally consumed the corpses of their dead. These have been nearly wiped out by poor ecosystem management and, ironically, the Parsees have initiated a special breeding program to keep them from going extinct.

But unless a program of some similar nature is implimented for the Parsees themselves, there will, in only a few generations, be no need for the services of any new generations of vultures.

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