Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest, where we released Tarzan, Astrid, Monic and Tantri, is located within the sacred area of the Dayak Ngaju tribe in the province of Central Kalimantan. As part of our community development efforts, it was not only customary but also fundamental for us to ask the tribe’s permission and blessings before we conducted any activity in the area. Therefore, three days before the release, the BOSF Release Team at Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest invited the Dayak Ngaju tribe from Tumbang Tohan Village and Tumbang Naan Village – two of the nearest Dayak villages from our monitoring camp at Bukit Batikap – to conduct the Manyanggar.
Manyanggar – also known as ruwatan bumi or mangenga lewu – is the most important ritual in Dayak Ngaju’s ancient tradition in honour or in gratitude to the Creator and residents of the universe, particularly their ancestors and other supernatural spirits believed to inhabit the forest. These spirits of the forest are highly respected because without them, all aspects of life cannot possibly run in harmony. It is for this belief that most Dayak communities are very reluctant to clear the forest or harm any of its inhabitants or even do any activity in the forest without the blessings from the spirits.
On the night of Manyanggar, the Dayak Ngaju Chief offered meat of a cow, a goat and a pig, as well as eggs, glutinous rice, cakes and wine to the spirits, while giving thanks for the fortune and safety that their people had enjoyed and chanting prayers for abundance sources of life of present and future. In relation to our release activity, the tribe prayed that the spirits of the forest would look after and provide a safe home for the orangutans.
The ritual ended with a great feast and lively dances and songs, joined by the BOSF team at the camp. It is now our hope that the kind spirits of the forest will indeed protect our beloved orangutans and keep them from harm.