THE KING AND THE HONEY HUNTERS
Makhdzir Mardan, Institute of Multimedia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, 43400 Selangor, Malaysia
His Majesty Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah, the King of Malaysia, joined the honey hunters of Gong Beris Village, Marang, Terangganu, Malaysia in harvesting honey from the bee trees with colonies of the Asian honey bee Apis dorsata in July 2009.
The Honey Hunters\' Co-operative of Terengganu (KOPEMAT) demonstrated their technique for collecting honey. His Majesty Sultan Mizan has been their ardent supporter since establishing the Co-operative in May 2009 through the auspices of the Royal Foundation Sultan Mizan, and channelling his goodwill and assistance to promote the well-being of honey hunters in Terengganu State.
The opportunity that we had been waiting for arrived when two adjacent bee trees with 35 huge colonies were identified. They were located 250 m from the nearest accessible road, and a 45 minute drive deep into the interior of the Mercang Forest Reserve. Tree species include Acacia mangium and Melaleuca leucadendron. Access was provided by a 200 m boardwalk, constructed to the base of the bee tree. A 9 m2 platform was built to hold 40 people and a tent covered with mosquito netting to provide safety from possible bee stings. When His Majesty Sultan Mizan decided to attend and witness the event, the bee tree was guarded around the clock by forest rangers for two weeks before the demonstration. Within that fortnight, two tigers and pigs were observed around the trees. During the event over 200 honey hunters took the opportunity to greet His Majesty and share their anecdotes about their experiences with the bees and honey bears in the jungle.
The Royal Foundation Sultan Mizan is now commissioning a specially-designed honey bottle for the honey harvest from Acacia sp and Melaleuca sp. The Foundation has allocated financial assistance to provide safety harnesses, navigation (GPS) tools, and a honey processing facility for KOPEMAT. His Majesty Sultan Mizan is as concerned as the honey hunters about the diminishing Melaleuca forest that directly affects the honey harvest, as well as the broader concerns of deforestation.