South-East Asia

Scissor Traps of Thái Đen tribals in Vietnam

Scissor traps are universal traps that can catch all kinds of small rodents. They are easy to produce from bamboo but need one item to be sourced in the villages. These are strips of bicycle tubes, which are not easy…

Bow Traps of Thái Đen tribals in Vietnam

Bow traps are used by Black Thai tribal people in Northern Vietnam to catch small rodents. These ingenious devices are carved from pieces of bamboo and some strings. The closing force of the scissor comes from a bow-like structure above…

Domestic pigs as food by Mentawais

Domestic pigs are a typical gift from a Mentawai family to a shaman for his support or services. In our case, Aman Aru attended a ceremony in a neighboring uma (family home in the forests), which had to be cleaned…

Deadfall Traps of Thái Đen tribals in Vietnam

Deadfall traps with a Figure-4 trigger are essential knowledge for survivalists and bushcrafters worldwide. Thái Đen (Black Thai) tribal people at Pù Luông Nature Reserve in Northern Vietnam use these traps and the Figure-4 trigger in a modified version. Modifications…

Mentawai forest huts

Forest huts of the Mentawai people at Siberut Island are used for various reasons and purposes. One is a permanent dwelling of single, old men not living with their family in the Uma (family home in the forest). This was…

Rattan fruits in Siberut jungles

Rattan fruits are available throughout the year in all Southeast Asian rainforests. There are about 600 different species of rattans, and many of them bear edible fruits. However, rattan prickles are a common nuisance when walking in the jungle. Nevertheless,…

Carrying baskets of Mentawai people

Two types of carrying baskets were used during my stay with the Mentawai people at Buttui on Siberut Island. One, locally called Opa, was fully enclosed on the sides and had an open rattan bottom. The other type was entirely…

Cutting tools at Siberut Island

The cutting tools of Mentawai people living in the forests are adzes, axes, machetes, and one specialized knife. All these tools have a solid historical background and are still used today. During my stay with a Mentawai family in December…

Sago worms of an unidentified species at Siberut Island

Sago worms are one of the food items that come naturally with the Mentawai’s staple food of sago flour. The worms grow in felled palm trunks or destined saplings. They are not worms but larvae and pupae of the Palm…

Domestic chicken as food by Mentawais

Domestic chickens are omnipresent around every Uma (family home) in the forests of Siberut Island. During nighttime, they will be kept in closed coops to protect them from predators like civet cats. While staying with Mentawais, I observed no nesting…

Rattan leaf stalks for coconut grating

Rattan leaf stalks have been, since immortal times, the tools with which Mentawai people have been grating coconuts. These long-lasting tools grate the coconuts into the required size of flakes. When worn out or broken, a new one will be…

Taro – another staple food of the Mentawai people

Taro (Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott) is one of the three staple food items of the Mentawai people on Siberut Island in Indonesia. The other two are sago and bananas. In many other countries, taro leaves and corms are eaten. Mentawais…

Roasted Sago sticks on Siberut Island

Roasted sago starch is the staple food for Mentawai people living in the moist, tropical forests of Siberut Island, off the coast of Western Sumatra in Indonesia. On the other hand, sago boiled to porridge, is eaten as a staple…

White Ginger Lily for cleaning hands

White Ginger Lily (Hedychium coronarium J. Koenig) belongs to the Zingiberaceae (Ginger) botanical family. Mentawai people use the crushed stem to clean their hands after touching arrow poison or one of its two poisonous main constituents. Plant description The Missouri…

Danger of Asian elephants – whether they are in musth or not

Asian elephants (Elaphas maximus) are smaller than their African cousins but not less dangerous when in musth. That danger was already described for African elephants in this article on this website. In the following, we briefly compare the differences between…

Mentawai arrow poison

Mentawai people use poison on their arrows to hunt game. In former articles on this website, we discussed the hunting methods of the Mentawai people. After that, an actual hunt for Flying foxes was presented. After that, we discussed the…

Hunting arrows and quivers of the Mentawai people

Bow and arrows are the primary hunting weapons for the Mentawai people. Their bows were already described here. This article will explain the different types of arrows used for these bows and give an insight into the quivers used. In…

Mangrove apples at the Mekong Delta

Mangrove apples are the fruits of Sonneratia sp. trees, one of the important genera of trees in the Mangrove forests of Southeast Asia. All species of Sonneratia will develop edible Mangrove apples. These fruits are slightly different in shape, orientation…

Animals collected by rice farmers in the Red River Delta

Rice farmers in secluded areas of the Red River Delta in Northern Vietnam need dietary additions to their staple rice dishes. Vegetables are harvested from around their homes and surrounding tropical Evergreen forests. Animal proteins are mainly collected in and…

Natural shampoo from a Soap plant (Gouania leptostachya)

Natural shampoo can be extracted from a variety of plants worldwide. In Lowland evergreen forests in Northern Vietnam, we used the leaves of a so-called Soap Plant. With these leaves, we regularly washed our hands and bodies. In the following,…

Building a specialized fishing boat at Padang

In Indonesia, there exists a wide variety of traditional fishing boat designs. Most of them are variations of standard types, which were adapted to local needs and conditions. And many of them are not systematically described yet. This article tries…

Stinging Nettle Slug Caterpillar in Vietnam

When hiking in Pu Luong Nature Reserve in Northern Vietnam, we found a species of Stinging Nettle Slug Caterpillar on a Banana leaf. My local friends got highly nervous when seeing it and I was intensely warned against touching it….

Boiling water in bamboo

Boiling water in green bamboo stems (‘culms’ would be the botanically correct term) is not a big skill, but it represents the basic cooking technique in Southeast Asian forests. One of the following articles will build on that and will…

Trapping Snakeskin Gourami in the Mekong Delta

Trapping Snakeskin Gourami fish (Trichopodus pectoralis) is commonly done all over Southeast Asia. However, a specific trap for catching them was developed in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Its simple principle could be easily applied to many other areas of…

Green-billed Malkoha bird on the spit

The Green-billed Malkoha is a common bird in Vietnam’s semi-deciduous tropical forests. An expedition led to the capture of one who was cooked for lunch. This and other species are often hunted by villagers supplementing their diet with this and…

Catching Octopuses by Sea-Gypsies

Sea-Gypsies, known as Ulak Lawoi or Moken, traditionally catch octopuses along the Andaman Sea’s rocky shores. Using a metal skewer and baited bamboo stick, they locate octopuses in holes with foam or clean pebbles. Patiently baiting them, they impale octopuses…

Mentawai Hunting bows

Hunting bows are the main hunting weapon for the Mentawai people and are very personal items for a hunter. They have great skills in using them and practice shooting from childhood onwards. During my stay with the Mentawais, I looked…

How Mentawai people assemble roof thatching panels

Roof thatching is vital for shelter waterproofing in the Mentawai tribe of around 6,000 people on Siberut Island, Indonesia. Siberut lies about 100 miles (160 km) west of Padang in West Sumatra. Of the 6,000 Mentawai people, roughly 1,000, mainly…