Do Cannibals Still Exist?

blog post photo

In 1987, scientists discovered a collection of discarded animal bones, dating back some 14,000 years. These bones displayed human-made marks where the meat had been cut from the bone. But scientists were shocked when they found human remains here too, showing the same tool markings – human flesh had also been stripped for consumption.

Cannibalism – the eating of human flesh by another human being – is one of man’s ultimate taboos.
What would drive someone to eat another person?

Well, people groups have practiced cannibalism for a wide range of reasons… It’s believed that the Aztecs engaged in cannibalism to appease their Gods (and, according to legend, emperor Moctezuma preferred human thighs with tomatoes and chili pepper sauce). In Australian tribes, it’s said that cannibalism was an attempt to gain the powers of the individuals being eaten – so eating a human brain offered new knowledge, a heart increased bravery. Other people (such as the Samo) were afraid of sorcery, and killed and ate suspected magic men and women. Cannibalism has also been carried out for medicinal purposes, revenge killings and religious ceremonies.

blog post photo

Cannibalism can also be observed in the animal kingdom – the Humboldt squid will eat its own, especially if they are injured. And, technically speaking, if you’ve ever nibbled on a finger nail or eaten a bit of your own hair, that’s known as auto cannibalism or self-cannibalism.

Cannibalism was once commonplace around the world, from England to Papua New Guinea. But do cannibals still exist?  

Some of the most recent accounts of cannibal activity come from tribal populations on the island of New Guinea, an island that sits just north of the Australian continent. Do indigenous groups, deep in the remote jungles, still practice cannibalism?

Find out on the premiere of Eating with Cannibals tonight, Sunday April 3rd, at 9:00 PM et/pt on the National Geographic Channel!


  1. Patrick J Kiger
    April 4, 2011, 2:44 pm

    Great article!

  2. OmniaElEmam
    April 6, 2011, 12:42 am

    wow, very interesting!

  3. RobertoSoto
    June 15, 2011, 8:20 am

    Mom said people do eat others when they feel really hungery, it happened in old country, when parents killed their baby and cooked him, the smells stimulated other starving families which made other killed their kids for a cook also…OMG…

  4. Aaron
    March 10, 2012, 4:21 pm

    I’m sure Papa New Guineans appreciate you sending an entire crew to their country just to ask jungle tribesmen about cannibalism.

    Summary for anyone who missed the show:

    Tribesman: “Yeah that tribe over there still does it, but not this tribe… anymore. Now would you learn to learn something more about our actual cultu…”
    Gibbon: “Thanks, I’ll be moving on now!”

  5. Ella
    Santa Cruz CA
    May 11, 2013, 6:57 pm

    Wow interesting

  6. Rased Oren
    Papua New Guinea
    July 16, 2013, 1:52 am

    Don’t be miss-lead by all those nonsense about Papua New Guinean tribes being cannibals and all that. We dont eat human beings anymore though some of our people still do. Eating human flesh, as for our case, is not a cult or pagan practice. Nor do we eat because we are hungry but because theres meat availlable or most importantly it is something to do with our culture. Cannibalism in other countries are caused by lunatics but in here we know what we are doing.
    Well, modern Papua New Guineans dont eat human flesh but we will if we are being served some for super..

  7. jibreal
    July 29, 2013, 7:58 pm

    you guyz should come to kenya. rumours has it that, iteso, a tribe in kenya also practise cannibalism. but they only kill their first born child, at the age of 2 yearz and below….itz like a celebration..but if a woman of a different tribe is maried by a man from the Iteso,, the child is killed and served to the mother without her being aware…

  8. Najaf
    July 20, 2014, 9:45 am

    Very sick Rased Onen You are destined to hell unless you repent and turn from you sinful ways.
    So you think it’s okay to eat another human being if someone serves humans for “supper” you sick dog. I hope someone cooks your demented self and eats you for supper . Maybe you you all can eat each other to extinction

  9. Anonymous
    December 1, 2014, 1:35 pm

    Najaf, everyone has their own opinion. It’s shocking that you throw religion and how “sinful” their act is. But yet you talk about how you hope someone cooks them? Isn’t that just as frowned upon in religion? Perhaps you should go re-read whatever religious book that you read/believe in and reanalyze your behavior and belief in religion.
    Cannibalism happened in many areas for different reasons- some places had limited food supply therefore they go to eating their pets then human. Some did it for religious, medicinal, and other purposes.

  10. Jaii-s
    Papua New Guinea
    March 31, 6:23 pm

    Wow…its being good after reading this article and the comments.

    However, as I an individual person I would say, what has been research by the scientists happened in the Past and not in today`s generation anymore. We are starting to develop and our people`s mindset today are different from our ancestors in the Past. But this cannibalism was not practice in all parts of Papua New Guinea, instead it was only practice in certain parts.

  11. Jo
    Indiana, US
    May 21, 8:22 am

    People are always looking for something to sensationalize… we are all so disgusted by the thought of eating another human being. Why? Do we value human life so much that it is sacred enough to be taboo to be a cannibal? Maybe the tribes that practice cannibalism value these lives more than main-stream societies today. Waste not, want not? Here, in America, we kill over a million babies each year. And what happens to their tiny fleshy bodies you ask? By all means they are not eaten by us! They are ground up and used as energy or simply dumped into sewers. People as food or people as food fertilizer? People as food or people as a renewable source of heat energy? Americans, Brits, and other Euro-societies ARE NO BETTER than those in the jungle chewing the flesh of another human being… no matter what NatGeo says :0)

  12. julian
    May 28, 11:14 am

    are they real

  13. Jaclyn Olson
    Long beach, USA
    June 5, 9:30 pm

    Are there cannibals in California?