Biocultural importance of the Tanying [Koompassia excelsa (Becc.) Taub.] tree for the Berawan of Loagan Bunut, Sarawak, Malaysia
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This article explores the biocultural importance of the Tanying tree (Koompassia excelsa (Becc.) Taub.) for the Berawan people of Loagan Bunut, Sarawak; the study argues that the Tanying tree is a Cultural Keystone Species for the Berawan people. The study employs the Identified Cultural Influence of cultural keystone species (ICI) and Use Value (UV) indices, calculated from data collected through open ended interviews to support the argument. The ICI value was moderately high (29/35) while the UV value was found to be low (2.7). Though this appears contradictory at the first instance, a close scrutiny shows that the Tanying tree owes its unique position in Berawan culture to the spiritual values surrounding it, as the tree is revered for the hives of the honey bee Apis dorsata. Owing to the spiritual values, there is a taboo on the felling of the tree, which in turn has led to the conservation of the tree and the various animals depending on it. The Tanying tree is an example for ecologically important species also considered as a Cultural Keystone Species (CKS). The inferences drawn from this qualitative research suggests that the conservation of bioculturally important species such as the Tanying will help in the conservation of both indigenous cultures as well as the local ecosystem.
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