Orang Asli moving out to cooler forest dwellings

Annual exodus: Semaq Beri villagers moving their belongings to their temporary homes by the banks of Tasik Kenyir and the surrounding forest of Terengganu. — Bernama

KUALA BERANG: The sweltering heat has forced a group of Orang Asli of the Semaq Beri community here to leave their village for much cooler dwellings in the forest of Terengganu.

A villager, Hitam Keladi, 60, said leaving their homes in Kampung Sungai Berua, near here, to live in the jungles around Tasik Kenyir was a normal thing to do when the temperatures soar during the hot season.

Hitam along with 20 other families are also escaping the heat to protect their small children from heat exhaustion and other illnesses.

“There are more shady places for us here and with the fresh forest breeze it is definitely much more comfortable.

“We are not fleeing our homes ... just escaping the heat. The children’s health gets better when they are out in the forest, “ he said when met here by Bernama.

Once in the forest they would not just settle in one place but will keep moving in search of wood or to hunt for food along the river.

Hitam, who is also the tribal chief of the temporary settlement, said they had left their homes for three months now and would return to Sungai Berua when the weather improves.

According to Hitam, it is not unusual for the villagers to escape to the forest during the hot season.According to Hitam, it is not unusual for the villagers to escape to the forest during the hot season.

Meanwhile, Sahak Samak, 41, also from the same tribe, said living in the forest during the hot season was an ancestral tradition.

“It is part of our nomadic culture to move from one place to another in the forest but we rarely practise this nowadays.

“We only move into the forest when necessary, especially when the weather is extremely hot or when our village is hit by floods, but when the situation has improved we will return,” he said.

According to Sahak, apart from Tasik Kenyir, they have settled at several other forest areas near Sungai Cendana and around the Terengganu state park.

The Orang Asli Semaq Beri settlement in Sungai Berua was established over 35 years ago after they were moved from Tasik Kenyir following the construction of a dam and ecotourism development around the lake.

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Orang Asli , Semaq Beri , heat


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