December 5, 2011

Encounter with a Forest Lelabi or Labi-Labi

The Ibans love to eat the forest lelabi. A catch during a hunting trip would often usher in a huge feast in the communal ruai. But a celebration like this is rare and far in between because the lelabi is no longer Common Food. The increasing population of Sarawak has reduced the lelabi population to a very small number.Scientifically the lelabi is called Dogania subplana .(Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1809)

However one of my friends has successfully reared a lelabi to a giant size. It is his pet and he will not have it in the pot!! And I hope no one will steal his beautiful pet. The market value is RM 35 - 40 per kilo. Some people may just buy the blood only to prepare a longevity herbal concoction.

The lelabi is 2  feet wide (shell only)  from side to side and about 2 1/2 feet long. It should be about 20kg in weight if not more. Aged 4 years from the time it was scooped from a puddle!! The labi labi is a very dangerous animal in fact. Never put your finger near him. The safe distance is 2 feet because that's how high he can jump from the water. A camera can easily be snapped into pieces by him. According to local beliefs only a clap of thunder can release your hand (if it is not yet swallowed) from his mouth...So never tickle a labi labi!!



Beautiful round eyes.
Interesting nose. This is a good angle..you would be transfix by how his head retracts into his body and he would swim away gracefully.
Neck area...don't ever try to tickle him. His neck can extend up to a good foot.
Cute giant asking for more food. He is a vegetarian.
I often wonder why the Foochows call it a Tong Ngii or long fish. This soft shelled river tortoise is believed to give one longevity and good health. But again it might just be the reason to cause its extinction. The Ibans like all the other rainforest peoples  consider it a very clean and organic meat and supplied by nature. They kill what they need and never over hunt.

Perhaps it is a good idea to rear labi labi in a farm so that this species would not become extinct!!

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is it a protected animal?

Anonymous said...

we call it " sui yue " - delicious when slow cooked .some species are and some not protected i think so. you like to eat these labi labi Sarawakiana?

- Ah Ngao

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Anonymous..the hard shelled ones are protected. But I am not so sure about these labi labi. I have not seen the most up to date chart of protected animals of Malaysia. Will find out in time.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao...yes it is called sui yii on Chinese menus.

We Foochows have a very good way of cooking it and the cartilage would be very nice.

No..I won't eat it..

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