Folk belief helps in gibbon preservation Kabita Duarah BAREKURI (TINSUKIA), Oct 11 - Folk beliefs and preservation of oral tradition have made it possible for the endangered ape species, the hoolock gibbon to survive amidst human habitation. There are 29 hoolock gibbons Indias only ape at Barekuri, an area of 21 big and small revenue villages. The Hoolocks have been protected and cared for by the villagers on account of religious tenets that enjoin upon them not only to care for humanity but also for all living creatures under the sun.
As far as the folk belief goes, if a hoolock gibbon is heard crying during the night, the purohit (priest) of the Barekuri Bornamghar and his disciples must assemble at the Bornamghar and cut the betel nut and leaf to ward off all evils that might befall their village.
We consider it inauspicious if the hoolock gibbon cries at night, said Umakanta Chutia, the purohit of the Bornamghar, remembering that once the hoolock gibbons had been crying for a fortnight and after that the State had gone through one of the nightmarish phases marred by widespread violence in its contemporary history.
Killing of a hoolock gibbon is considered a sin here that will have far reaching repercussions on the destiny of the community. As killing of a hoolock gibbon is a sin, the people do not harm the gibbons even if they come in herds and eat all the fruits in the backyard. These and a host of other beliefs that in present times have acted as a bridge of camaraderie between this village and the outside world, have successfully conserved nature.
Our people do not cut the trees because the hoolock gibbons live on trees and it is bad luck if a hoolock gibbon is seen by anyone walking on the ground, said Chutia.
What is very interesting is that the people listen to the cries of the hoolock gibbons here to determine the time of the day. Whether it is a matter of going to school or starting the other daily jobs, the hoolock gibbon is listened to and then the flurry of activity begins.
The hoolock gibbon is heard at some particular time of the day and it has become a custom for the villagers to determine the time by listening to the hoolock gibbons, informed Dambaru Chutia, Diplob Chutia and Ritu Chutia, all members of Wild Life and Environment Conservation Organisation, a body founded by the village youths to make the people aware about certain forces that are posing a threat to their trees and hoolock gibbons.
The biggest threat to the existence of the hoolock gibbons in our village has come from oil exploration, said Dambaru Chutia.