The Singer that Alerts Mentawai to Any Disaster

Juvenile bilouThis primate exclusively lives on Mentawai, the islands with 16,000 inhabitants, West Sumatra Province. Bilou or Mentawai Gibbon (Hylobates klossii) is from Hylobatidae (gibbon) family. It is similar to siamang with the same black fur, but is considerably smaller and lacks the siamang’s typical throat pouch. Bilou reaches 44 to 63 cm in length and about 6 kg in weight.

As all gibbons have, bilou has long arms and no tail. This kind of gibbon eats also fruits, sometime some plant parts, bird eggs, small vertebrates, and insects. It lives together in pairs that stake out from approximately 20-30 hectares territory. This area is defended strongly against other gibbons.

Bilou is a diurnal inhabitant of the rain forest that hangs in the trees and rarely comes to the ground. And the bilous sing wonderfully from the trees.

The singing is considered the most beautiful of all the gibbons’ songs. It can even reach seven octaves! Males and females will chant at considerable length (for about teens of minutes), either singlely or in duets, mostly between morning and evening. The singing of the gibbons serves to warn off other animals from their territory. But not only that.

Since a long time ago, the native people consider bilou’s singing as a sign of the disaster, including tsunami. This local wisdom-based system for catastrophe precaution is admitted by SurfAid Australia, an international NGO who has been there since 2007. In many cases, it’s proven that animals have far better instinct than us. [sources Kompas & Wikipedia, photo from Padang Kini]
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RANGKUMAN

Bilou adalah primata mirip siamang yang hanya bisa dijumpai di Kepulauan Mentawai, Sumatra Barat. Sekujur tubuh gibbon ini dipenuhi rambut hitam dan di bagian matanya berbulu putih. Sebagai kera endemik, bilou dilindungi oleh Pemerintah Indonesia maupun dunia, termasuk oleh masyarakat lokal Mentawai. Warga Mentawai memang respek terhadap satwa yang nyanyiannya dapat mencapai tujuh oktaf ini (dan mungkin yang paling merdu di antara kera-kera yang lain). Sejak lama mereka juga percaya nyanyian bilou dengan bunyi tertentu adalah pertanda akan datangnya bencana, termasuk tsunami. Sekedar info, Mentawai termasuk daerah yang rawan tsunami. LSM internasional, SurfAid Australia, pun mengakui sistem deteksi dini bencana yang berbasis dari kearifan lokal ini. Hewan memang memiliki insting yang lebih peka ketimbang manusia, bukan?

12 Replies to “The Singer that Alerts Mentawai to Any Disaster”

  1. Rie

    Buset! Mariah Carey bisa kalah, nih, sama si Bilou! Tp nyanyian Bilou pertanda bencana? Iya, gitu? Apa kebetulan aja?

    Reply
  2. Brahmanto Anindito Post author

    Iya, setidaknya itu kata sumber2 di atas. Tp nyanyian tertentu aja. Nggak dijelaskan scr spesifik jenis nyanyian yg mana itu. Tp warga sana udah hapal. Kearifan lokal, gitu.

    Reply
  3. Brahmanto Anindito Post author

    Hi, Nia. Thanks for coming and leaving a comment in English 😛

    That? I mean its singing is not only for warning the other animals, but also for warning Mentawaian about any disasters. The mating? I wasn’t to write about that ~_^.

    Reply
  4. Linda

    So, Mentawai just had a tremendous tsunami (again). Has anyone asked the Mentawai people
    whether they received some warning from the Kloss Gibbon about the coming tsunami?

    Reply

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