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Irulas are a scheduled tribe of India. Irulas are present in various parts of India, but are mainly located in the Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu. Their population in this region is estimated to be between 1000 to 2000. The tribes of Southern India are not tribes as in the sense of tribes in Polynesia or Africa, but rather segregated and inter-married communities descended directly through a pure blood line from the original humans who settled in South India after migrating from Africa.
The Census of Kerala identified 756 Irulan individuals from 189 families living in 9 settlements covering .23 km² in the state.
Their main occupations are snake and rat catching. They also work as labourers (coolies) in the fields of the landlords during the sowing and harvesting seasons or in the rice mills. Fishing is also a major occupation.
Rats destroy a quarter of the grain grown on Tamil Nadu-area farms annually. To combat this pest, Irula men use a traditional earthen pot fumigation method. Smoke is blown through their mouths, which leads to severe respiratory and heart problems.
Early 20th century anthropological literature classified the Irulas under the Negrito ethnic group. Unlike the tribes in the Andaman Islands who have retained their language, Irulas in Nilgiris have adopted the local regional languages such as Tamil and Telugu. Irula people are generally called as Negrito people, but they have a different hair consistency to other Tamil people. Their hair is more like a coarse afro than the straight hair of others in Southern India.
- World Bank grant to improve standard of living for rat-catchers
- Irula Project Proposal and site report
- Kerala Forests & Wildlife Department (2004) "Population of Important Forest Dwelling Tribes in Kerala" retrieved 4/4/2007 
- Giving Irulas their due
- Keystone Foundation (2006) "People of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve" retrieved 3/26/2007(NBR)"People of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve"
- "Building a better Rat Trap: Technological Innovation, Human Capital and the Irula" - Economic Research Paper about the Irula
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