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Bird and Sasi (Part 1)

The people of Kailolo still adhere sasi custom for the Mollucan Scrubfowl (Eulipoa wallacei), which is locally known as momoa bird. Only a designated person can harvest the eggs.

The people of Kailolo still adhere sasi custom for the Mollucan Scrubfowl (Eulipoa wallacei), which is locally known as momoa bird. Only a designated person can harvest the eggs.

It is known to all that the natural resources of this country, throughout its history, have been drained to meet the inhabitants’ needs. The majority Indonesian people have not taken preservation and maintenance into their cultural habit, let alone renewing the resources. Sooner or later, we will face terrible difficulties from the depletion of natural resources on which all human beings depend.

Fortunately, there are still a few people who care about nature and are always making efforts to save what is left on Earth. Among them are indigenous people who are actually very aware of preserving the environment around them despite being unexposed to information and living in limitations. They call the customary rules to preserve nature as sasi.

Indigenous people groups who are known to still uphold these customs are the indigenous peoples of the Maluku Islands, especially those who live on small islands. One of the traditional groups that still adhere to the sasi rule are the residents of Kailolo Village on Haruku Island, a small island covering an area of 138 sq km, located east of Ambon Island and south of Seram Island.

The people of Kailolo Village still adhere to sasi for the momoa bird, or the Mollucan Scrubfowl (Eulipoa wallacei). Only a designated person is allowed to harvest momoa eggs, which usually lay eggs communally on the coast of their village area. This communal nesting site was chosen to cope with predatory pressures and the unsuitability of the spawning environment. It is estimated that in a year there are 50,000 momoa eggs that can be harvested on Kailolo beach. With the sasi that regulates the harvesting of momoa eggs, the local community hopes that momoas can continue to be sustainable and provide them with a livelihood because their "breath" is maintained.

The momoa bird is one of the endemic bird species of Maluku belonging to the Megapodiidae family. With a body size of only about 30 centimeters, momoa can lay eggs as large as a third of its body size. The size of its eggs are about eight centimeters long and five centimeters wide, roughly twice the size of a chicken egg.

A female momoa, unexpectedly, can lay as many as ten eggs in a year. The eggs are laid nocturnally in holes dug on a beach, then left unattended and undergo the incubation process without intervention of the mother.

Egg incubation can occur in the presence of solar heat, geothermal heat, or heat generated by the decomposition of waste with an incubation period of more than 60 days. When the time comes to hatch, momoa chicks will try to get out of their shells on their own, crawl, and grab their own lives. This uniqueness is what distinguishes Momoa from the other 22 types of the Megapode family.

In the book Ecology Megapoda Maluku, Heiji (1997) stated that Kailolo is not the only place where momoa birds live. Its habitat extends to Halmahera, Bacan, Baru, Seram, Ambon Islands, and even Misool (Papua).

Usually, momoa live in tropical mountainous areas, especially forests and hills with an altitude of 700-1950 meters above sea level. However, sometimes they also inhabit low-lying areas, open beaches, and soil or scrub. These birds tend to live solitary or in pairs with a monogamous system. (Yusup Cahyadin/Hanom Bashari)


This publication is an archive series of Burung Magazine articles which were circulated in the period 2006-2011. Information regarding the status of birds has been updated with the actual conditions.