Women of the Bishnoi tribe in Rajasthan, a state in northern India have been taking in orphaned and injured fawns for more than half a century - and couldn't imagine it being any other way.
‘These baby deers are my life and they’re like my own children,’ said Mangi Devi Bishnoi, 45, a housewife from one of the villages.I feed them milk and food and ensure they’re given proper care and attention in the house like all my family members.
'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.’It's not so strange when one considers that members of the group are nature worshipping religious folk who grow up living next to jungles and hence in close proximity to animals, they play with the creatures and have no fear of them.
Roshini Bishnoi, 21, a student in one of the villages said:
‘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. Neighbour Ram Jeevan Bishnoi, 24, added: ‘We do not see them as just animals. They are very much like a family member.
'We take care of everything they may need to live a healthy life. We keep them protected in our house so that dangerous animals like wild dogs do not harm them. If they’re injured we keep them safe in our house and treat them like our children.
'My parents have never differentiated between a baby deer and me. We are one family and it is in our religion to protect them.’The community have followed the teachings of Hindu Guru Sri Jambeshwar Bhagwan since the 15th century and religiously obey 29 rules suggested by their Guru one of which is protection and love for nature.
The community however views the deer as sacred and accords it special attention.
Ram Jeevan said:
‘We have followed this way of living for over 550 years with a lot of love and affection.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.’More photos...