There are an estimated 15,000 cultures remaining on earth, many doomed or significantly threatened by erosion of cultural integrity, loss of habitat and environmental quality, and the ravages of disease and socio-economic infections. Most of the 15,000 cultures are represented by a single population of several hundred persons or less, dependent on pockets of land which are increasingly under threat from other uses or environmental destruction. They lack immunity from many Western diseases, modern weapons to defend themselves from armed intruders like drug smugglers and illegal loggers, and a voice in national politics. With their demise goes expertise and wisdom of elders, healers, midwives, farmers, fishermen and hunters, mostly transmissible only by oral tradition to respectful successors.
There are still groups living beyond the reach of the global economy, in places like the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean and the mountains of New Guinea. The pygmies, who live in the equatorial forests of Uganda and Zaire, are on the verge of extinction; possibly 300 are left and the numbers are dwindling.