FAREWELL: A ngajat is performed prior to the release of the wrinkled hornbill, which is being carried by a villager at second right.
By Victor Luna Amin
A VERY special visitor, a wrinkled hornbill (Aceros corrugates) or Alau Buluh, Kajakoh or Koko in Iban, surprised Kampung Keranggas villagers with a visit on the first day of Gawai Dayak this year.
About 10.30pm that evening, the bird made its historic visit, increasing the joy of the people during the important occasion.
I witnessed the phenomenon as the longhouse folk were celebrating at the ruai or common veranda of Tuai Rumah Tana by having karaoke and fancy dress competitions.
I was at the ruai when my niece’s husband informed me that a hornbill was caught by another niece’s husband.
The bird had been sitting near the gong at the ruai of my brother-in-law. It had been heavily raining.
I could not believe that a wrinkled hornbill had arrived during Gawai Dayak and furthermore chose to sit next to a gong at the ruai of my own longhouse. This was very unusual.
Biologically, this species of hornbill would normally not fly low or at night and never goes near human dwellings.
After it was caught, it continuously called out a deep, echoing ‘kak-kak- kak’. It was very pleasant to have been visited by this lovely and kind bird.
My personal interpretation, as a forester, is that the bird could have been flying all day and tried to find a place to rest while avoiding the heavy rain. And it arrived as a visitor to celebrate Gawai with us.
That evening was full of curiosity and joy among all my family members.
We celebrated with food and drink, and Christian prayers. That night, we bravely slept at the ruai in the company of the hornbill with the hope of having a dream to explain its visit. The wrinkled hornbill is
one of the eight species of hornbills found in Borneo and is a totally protected species under the provision of the Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998.
The penalty for the killing or possession of such birds or part thereof is imprisonment of not more than two years and a fine of RM25,000. High flying adult males
normally stay in tall trees that serve as breeding sites and they always avoid human dwellings.
The male wrinkled hornbill is easily identified by its distinctive throat and bill, and the terminal portion of tail is stained ochre yellow to deep chestnut. Its head and neck are black and white. In the Pantu sub-district,
we have rarely heard or seen this bird for over 10 years. It is a very rare species. Its historic visit to ruai at Kampung Keranggas remains a great mystery and surprise.
The coming of this hornbill was subjected to numerous of interpretations. The locals believe that this is a good bird that signifies a positive future for the people in the area in terms of progress and development; and they all prayed to the Lord that their sincere prayers be heard.
The longhouse folk said that never in the longhouse’s history had such a hornbill come to their longhouse, and what more during Gawai Dayak, and to sit near a gong.
This was truly an amazing and unbelievable experience and we were deeply touched. The majority of the people said that this bird, a creature made by God, signified the spirit of God and it must be treated with respect and released.
As advised by many people, the hornbill was released so that it could return to its community and hopefully tell of his good experience and treatment while celebrating Gawai with the people of Kampung Keranggas. This also conforms with wildlife protection laws and regulations.
The whole longhouse community released the bird on June 2, 2010 at about 11am after prayers.
It was sent off with a ngajat dance. A tag that reads ‘KRG01062010’ was attached to the hornbill’s leg.
Perhaps, this will be a lesson for the future and help us to conserve these birds so we can all see, appreciate and value them.
And the Iban people in Kampung Keranggas, Pantu, have positively contributed to the conservation of wildlife, as shown by the release of this hornbill into the wild.