Diet may have caused orangutan extinction
Mohamad Rayan , Malinau Sat, 07/11/2009 12:49 PM Opinion The Jakarta Post
Dayak eat orangutan! Marcus and I had been in the field in Malinau for nearly 6 weeks and it was the first time we heard that the Dayak tribe ate orangutan. Our catch phrase before we set out was "Punan eat everything". Dayak Punan (a nomadic tribe from Borneo) told us they ate every animal in the forest near Mt. Bintang in Malinau. And we realized there were no orangutans near Malinau city or in all of Malinau district.
When we asked what they did hunt for, the Punan Dayak from Punan Setarap village said they hunted boar, deer, bear, anteaters, porcupine and monkey.
When we asked the Dayak community about their hunting, how they got their protein for example, they gave us surprising answers. The Kenyah people also revealed that they enjoyed most of the animals in the forest, but the Kenyah are now more connected to the community and development, as symbolized by the election of a regent from the Dayak Kenyah line. The Kenyah, Lun Dayeh, Brusu, Long Alango tribes consume most of the animals in nearby forests. They also fish in the crystal-clear water creeks inside the forest. With the clear water, it is easier for them to catch fish from the river.
This topic does raise big questions, for example, why are there no orangutans in Malinau?
According to reports and ground checks in the surrounding communities, local tribes do eat the animal, but does that mean they have caused its extinction? Or is it because forests have been so heavily depleted in the area?
The current orangutan population, according to data from the directorate general for forest protection and nature conservation, is believed to be 61,234. Most are found in the forests of Borneo (54,567), with the remainder in Sumatra (6,667).
Kalimantan has been studied, surveyed and explored by local scientists and international experts since the 1800s. However, there are no studies or concrete answers as to why there are no orangutans in Malinau.
However, one study suggested that in Serawak, 10,000 years ago, human did eat orangutans. The book, The Orangutan, Its Biology and Conservation, was written by Leobert E. M. De Boer in 1982.
For the Iban tribe from Serawak, eating orangutan is taboo and they still have orangutans in their area. The evidence suggests that it is possible the Dayak tribe may have caused the extinction of orangutans in their area.
The writer is Community Relations and Development Manager for the Borneo Tropical Rainforest Foundations. This is personal opinion.