The book ‘Wildlife Tales and Iban Myths from Sabal and Gunung Lesong’ (left) and ‘Jerita Jelu Siga Enggau Pengidup Bansa Iban’ (right) consists of 23 stories linking Iban beliefs and culture with wildlife and sacred places.
Sixteen storytellers from the Sedilu-Sebuyau and Simunjan area took part in an effort to collect folklore on orang-utan, wildlife, taboos and local history to record the oral traditions of these communities and to increase appreciation among the general public on the importance of nature to culture and identity. The book published was a compilation of stories and folklore as told by local villagers living in proximity to areas that were once known to be crucial orang-utan habitats in Sarawak.
In 2015, WCS Malaysia first produced a book entitled the Orang-utan Folklore and Iban Communities or in the Iban language version, Ensera Mayas Enggau Bansa Iban from the Batang Ai and Lanjak-Entimau. This new book, Wildlife Tales and Iban Myths from Sabal and Gunung Lesong or Jerita Jelu Siga Enggau Pengidup Bansa Iban produced by WCS in 2020 is a follow up to the previous publications. All 23 folktales were presented in two languages, Iban and English.
It is hoped that the preservation of these wildlife related folktales will help younger generations, especially those living in urban areas to see the importance of preserving the good tradition of living in harmony with wildlife. And so, apart from contributing to orang-utan conservation efforts, this project plays a role in preserving and restoring cultural connections. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia Program hopes that the book will encourage increased wildlife stewardship among the Iban communities across Sarawak to protect endangered species and serve as a platform to preserve the oral history as told by the storytellers for the next generation.
The folklore books were published to be distributed to partners, donors, schools and local communities at no charge. The project was funded by various donors including the Arcus Foundation, Enlyst Fund, Fondation Segre, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Malaysia, Whitley-Segre Conservation Fund, Orangutan Project Sdn Bhd, Hock Seng Lee Berhad and the Josephine Peiser Charitable Foundation. Selected stories will be on aired via WaiFM Iban for one week every month until December 2021. Members of the public are encouraged to listen to these interesting oral histories as you would not want to miss out.
The Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia Program is headquartered in Kuching, Sarawak, with offices in Johor and Kuala Rompin in Peninsular Malaysia. Currently, WCS Malaysia works to preserve four priority species – orang-utans, sharks and rays, elephants and tigers. Go to https://malaysia.wcs.org/ for more information on WCS Malaysia and visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WCS.Malaysia/ for updates.