Borneo Death Blow – full documentary

Borneo Death Blow – full documentary


In the remaining jungle of Borneo, lives a tribe of nomadic hunter-gatherers. They’re known for their survival skills and for the deadly poison they use on their blowpipe darts the Penan My name is Raphael Treza. I’m a musician and film-maker I’m going to spend the next three months with the Penan tribe of Malaysia My journey begins in Kuala Lumpur Then a flight to Borneo the third largest island in the world bigger than France or Texas it’s divided into 3 territories Indonesian Kalimantan in the south which means burning weather island and Brunei and Malaysian Borneo in the north From the air I catch a glimpse of what the palm oil industry has done to this country I land in Sarawak a Malaysian state that’s seen massive deforestation. A land where activists get killed or disappear During a period of over fifty years the Malaysian government has overseen the destruction of the vast majority of Borneo’s primary rainforest selling it for billions of dollars as timber Half of all the world’s annual supply of tropical timber comes from Borneo and it’s replaced with rubber plantations and oil palm trees the products of which are now used in around half of all packaged supermarket goods. Very few national parks have been created in Sarawak to protect what is considered to be the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on Earth hosting one third of all plant species on the planet and an estimated 30 million insect species Less than 10% of Sarawak’s primary rainforest remains intact and where the land still looks green it’s mostly secondary forest growing for more timber The forest grows back so densely that it’s no longer habitable for its biggest and most endangered species like the orangutan and sun bears The Penan were the only tribe of hunters-gatherers able to live as nomads in the primary rainforest of Borneo settling for a couple of months in temporary huts, collecting only what they needed before moving on to other hunting grounds A peaceful, good-natured people the 15,000 Penan who lived here didn’t stand a chance against the powerful logging companies supported by a mafia state government When they started blocking logging roads, many were arrested and even tortured. Most of them ended up in cities, forgetting their precious survival knowledge. Today, only a few families have kept their traditional way of life. But as crucial space is missing, they are forced to live part-time in camps and villages. Bala is a semi-nomadic Penan tribesman. He’s recently had to take shelter in a village when his forest was cut down. He’s using a bamboo segment as a container, to fill with the deadly tajem, the poison applied to the tips of his hunting darts. The tajem tree, or Antiaris Toxicaria, grows up to forty meters high. It’s widespread all over south Asia and tropical Africa. In its raw form, the sap is deadly when it enters the bloodstream, causing lethal cardiac arrhythmia but, through a special refining process, ithe penan make it even more powerful. It is then fatal, in less than two minutes, depending on the size of the prey. It’s ideal for hunting as it doesn’t contaminate the meat The Penan rely on foreign trade to procure iron in return for resin, animal skins and handicrafts. Bala carefully cleans the residual deadly sap from his machete Bala pours the harvested latex into a pot made of dried leaves. These pots are also made from green leaves for boiling water and cooking meat. He is careful to heat it at just the right distance from the flame to avoid boiling the sap. As night falls on the forest of Borneo many species risk leaving the safety of their burrows. To make the poison more powerful, the Penan follow a special recipe. They combine several plants in specific proportions. The darts are then coated in the poisonous mixture, dried by the fire, and are ready to use. Richard is a sedentary Penan. He was born ten years after his family was forced out of the jungle in the nineties. He works in a nearby national park. He’s from one of the few villages that still has access to the untouched rainforest and reserve the right to practise traditional blowpipe hunting. He’s joined by his cousin. They search for their favourite meat, the wild boar. It’s become harder to find due to human activities around the border of the park. Blowpipe hunting is a matter of stealth and patience. During the day every animal is on their guard. This squirrel got lucky. Richie has found some bamboo shoots. They will provide a vegetarian meal for tonight. Later, they’re boiled to clear the cyanide it naturally contains. The rivers running through the national parks are clear and free of pollution from logging, which erodes the ground and makes the water muddy. The Penan can still practise fishing here. They use homemade spear-guns. They also fish in swamps, using bread. It takes only three seconds to catch a fish. Now it’s my turn to try. A few Penan families still live as semi-nomads in the remote jungle. Langub, a sedentary Penan guides me to meet them. He needs the help of a Penan couple who live on the way. We arrive at a camp built with the help of some sedentary Penan to facilitate meetings between the nomads and their relatives who have left the forest. Saya lives here a couple of months a year. With his two sons, Tyon and Ajai, his wife and his two daughters. The Penan keep female names secret to outsiders, so they’ll remain a mystery. For lunch, there’s rice, turtle and a mix of tapioca flour the Penan call naon, which tastes like water. Their main source of food would traditionally come from the sago palm tree. Saya and his kids are taking me to harvest its trunk. The Penan take great care to not damage its roots, so the palm will continue to thrive. He first collect some moss called jakah, an essential survival element used to light fires. The palm heart is typically made into a nutritious, non-perishable flour, but it’s also eaten raw. At the junction of two paths, Saya shows me Oroo, the Penan’s way of communicating with other members of the tribe, using signs made of branches. The code always begins with the Penan motto, jah kenin “we have the same heart” In the few villages bordering reserved areas, the Penan have been offered jobs in the national parks and are allowed to hunt in untouched regions of rainforest. In tourist places like these, the government appears to have made an effort to build a brand new hospital, but as I’ll learn later, nothing has been arranged for the Penan who’ve been forced to settle down in remote villages. Like most tribes in Borneo, Penan families share living accommodation, called longhouses. Their woven craft is made of rattan, a vine that can reach a length of more than 200 meters and can be crushed to use as a natural toothbrush. It’s now being replaced by plastic. The Penan used to be animist, worshipping the forest spirit called Ballei Like most tribes in Borneo, they’ve been Christianised. Nyapun was one of the first Penan chiefs to be forced to settle down. He says he’s probably 89 years old. The Penan used to live in the present. The canopy would hide the sky so they couldn’t count moon phases or years. He is gathering fern shoots and tapioca leaves for lunch. Like most tribesmen in rural Borneo, Nyapun never leaves his house without a weapon for self-defence. The spear attached to the end of his blowpipe is a reliable secondary weapon Tribal wars are still in living memory and encountering wild animals like giant pythons and sun bears could still be a deadly. Nyapun’s second wife plays nose flute. They live in this compound with their children and grandchildren. Two villagers guide me to a remote Penan camp at the end of a logging road. These dangerous, abandoned roads are prone to landslides and sinkholes. A few pockets of primary forest were spared from the chainsaws. Penan are known to be very shy, which makes their adaptation to the outside very challenging. The villagers have a hornbill as a pet. Hornbills are the emblem of Sarawak. Many different species exist all over Asia. Like the Great Hornbill, here filmed in Cambodia. Older Penan folk suffer most from their lost nomadic lifestyle, and struggle to adapt to life in the villages. Many suffer from depression or have lost their minds. I’m back with Bala. He shows me how to make Penan barkcloth. He cuts a beripun tree and beats it to remove the bark from the trunk. The Penan use over 1,500 names for plants. Most of them are used in their ethnobotany. He softens the bark by beating it. These were the traditional loin-cloths until cotton replaced them. This plant is used by the Penan to treat snake bites. It’s one of the most useful medicinal plants in the jungle of Borneo, which is loaded with deadly snakes. This same plant saved the life of Swiss ethnologist and activist Bruno Manser. He spent six years living with the Penan in the eighties, unifying and rallying them against the loggers by helping to block logging roads. The Malaysian government put a price on his head. He disappeared in the jungle of Sarawak in 2000, following his return from Europe. He was declared dead in 2005 and remains as a hero for the Penan. Though I hope I won’t need it, I decide to keep some for the rest of my trip. Another very powerful medicinal plant in Borneo is Kratom. It’s known to treat opiate and alcohol addiction. It’s also used against fever and to relieve stress and anxiety. I now travel to the south of Sarawak, near the Indonesian border, to meet the Iban, who are known as the head hunters. Their name is also the Lakya which means “the strong men”. They used to practise head hunting on other tribes, including the Penan, and some families still keep skulls as trophies in their longhouses. The Iban don’t use blowpipes for hunting, opting for regular guns. Even though head hunting officially ceased a century ago, the Iban are still remembered as merciless warriors, and guides still advise against entering Iban longhouses without invitation. They are famous for their tattoos. Tattoos represent an important life event like becoming a father. For the first head taken, a tattoo was made on the hand the entegulun The Iban now mix their traditional tattoos with Western styles and foreign travellers come to get Iban tattoos. At Saya’s camp, the family is preparing for a trip through the jungle. Saya’s daughter is petting the family’s monkey. The Penan use them as guards, giving a signal when danger is near. The family prepares to build a camp en route to their next living place. They choose an uphill spot away from mosquitoes and falling trees. Under such changeable weather conditions, they must be able to build a rainproof shelter in under an hour. As part of Penan fashion, they sometimes like to dye their hands with red leaves. The family occasionally leave the forest to trade meat in the villages, but they’re often isolated for months and must light their fires without using a lighter. With his knife, Saya strikes a firestone that he found in the river. Sparks fall on the moss, igniting it. More moss and a bit of cloth help the flames grow. To illuminate the hut at night, the Penan use a plant candle, made from the pod of a vine. It provides light for up to an hour. It rains almost every day in the jungle. Punyau, a readily-combustible wood, is cut and briefly dried above the fire. Tyon is making Penan forks, or atip, some versatile and effective cutlery, which are easy and fast to craft. I leave the nomads to meet a displaced community at the centre of Sarawak. There is no public transport, so I decide to hitchhike. The village is hours away from any other camp and I’m travelling next to 2000 liters of diesel. I come with a present, the book written by Bruno Manser. They can’t read it, but it contains many drawings of what are now rare animals and plants. Some villagers are preparing their blowpipes for hunting the next day. Penan blowpipes are crafted from ironwood, the hardest wood in the jungle. Their making is a long process, drilling by hand on a platform. The use of wooden blowpipes only appeared in the middle of the 20th century when the Penan acquired iron drills. They were previously made of bamboo. Once shaped as a tube and sanded down with a special leaf, the blowpipe is precise up to forty meters. Tribesmen in Borneo have developed a very distinctive style combining modern outfits with traditional survival gear and jeweller High socks help protect against leeches. They wear rattan bracelets and wild boar tusks. Apart from an unused room presented as a school the government has done nothing for these families, in the hopes that they will eventually migrate to the cities. The head of the camp wants to talk to me about the situation here. Sarawak is home to what was once thought to be the largest cave on earth, until one bigger was recently discovered in Vietnam. Three and a half million bats make their home inside. Every evening, they leave the cave in search of fruit and insects. They form swarms to confuse predators like eagles. After nightfall in the camp, the families gather to watch the only Kung Fu movie they have. This giant cicada is one of a thousand different cicada species in Borneo In the morning, the village kids get ready for hunting. Lia, Asik, and their little brothers Yung and Jokim find a thorny palm whose soft heart is used for the darts’ fletching. Without this crucial element, their entire survival in the jungle would be jeopardised. The plug is carved to the right width using a wooden guide. The season for wild fruit lasts only three months a year, and boars have become rare in this secondary forest. As a result the Penan are forced to rely on supplementary foods, like birds and pygmy squirrels. Using the poison, small prey dies instantly. Yung has found a plant used by kids as hair gel. Stingless bees come to drink on our skin. Giant wild bees also make swarms on the remaining tall trees. The Penan use a distinctive tongue clicking to express surprise and approval It’s time for me to leave the Penan. A people for whom kindness, generosity and courage is a way of life. Their ingenuity, and the elegant solutions they employ to thrive in some of the most challenging and complex environments must not be lost. All of humanity could benefit from Penan knowledge of plants and their understanding of nature. One day the tables will turn, and the wealth of every country will be defined by the nature they hold when that day comes, the last Penan families living in the wild may have left the rainforest along with all their secrets.

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100 thoughts on “Borneo Death Blow – full documentary

  1. Great documentary Raphael, hats off, I had traveled to Sarawak / Kuching back in 1996, and went to Camp leaky in East Kalimantan up stream from Pankalakboon on the Indonesian side, amazing stories to tell, but your documentary, animal clips and pictures are the Best I have seen

  2. Their lifestyle is so like our from Nagaland India… We used to be headhunter too In the past…!! Good they are still keeping their tradition Surviving..!! Good bless them

  3. This presenter is laughable when he tries hard to make certain issues that he feels strongly about the narrative…..another global alarmist that sees danger and death at every corner of our world…..he wants these people to have modern items such as access to modern medicine but then hates mans advancement…..a joke

  4. Thanks rafa for produce a very good quality video in term of the points and picture. Everything was true. I hope all tribes all around the world will get they right, freedon to live in the jungle

  5. none knew about us, BORNEO, the land of Headhunters…and if they want to know about us, they are about to get our trees and land….may God will punish them..

    Welcome to Iban tribes..the most fierce in Borneo..

  6. I was traveling through Malaysia and Borneo recently. The people are wonderful, and nature so beautiful. But I could see how important it is to raise awareness to the problems around logging and palm oil. Palm oil is such a big part of Malaysian economy that they promote it in all the ways possible, with pro-palm oil propaganda everywhere. Back in Europe and U.S., don't forget to check in the ingredients in products to avoid it! Thank you for this beautiful video.

  7. cubo tengoa baik baik doo baso jang tey ne kubeu o tun jang …….. kanek papa ne o barak tun jang .. penan .. temananem .. kedeu .. doo .. kete ..cubo ba be matie aturan kadeak bae nenget dung tangen menjadi matie wkwkwk tun alew belituk hoiii malaysia jangan asal mengklaim itu bahasa kami tapi potong baju penan kung (jakun) namen tey ne (tau arti dia) tegoak tajem (tajam) ati (belum)

  8. powerful documentary very sad to see what people will do for greed I wish these tribes all the best Raphael great film hope the message brings change al

  9. The last thing these beautiful people need is Christianity! The daily struggles they face, only to be bible bashed by some religious nut.

  10. We destroy these rainforest but i guarantee the cure for cancer is in one of them… Every disease has a cure that just hasn't been found, these incredibly diverse ecosystems need to be preserved we have to much to learn from them.

  11. Seems like a great doco just couldn’t watch it 3min of it without a soundtrack of music playing the whole time wtf is it a doco or soundtrack

  12. The British Guy Should Talk Thrash About All The Bullshit Going On In His Own Country Instead Of Going Somewhere Else.

  13. I know this may come off as vapid or ignorant, possibly totally missing the poing of this video; im only 21 minutes into it so far (and am loving everything I've seen save for the destruction of the island by greedy businesses.)

    I really think it would be an amazing thing to make a survival video game that is essentially these peoples way of life. The way they hunt, the way they have villages, the way the communicate to other tribes, the way they cook amd everything. Having family members who are their bridge to society, literally everything, because I think it would be a really great way to spread the word about these kinds of things.

    They seem like such beautiful and genuine people, maybe sales of the video game and any DLC or MTX could share/donate a large portion of the proceeds to preserving these islands and forests. At the very least to help these villages get more goods that they need.

    I would play the hell out of it, I would financially support it 100% and I think it could be a big hit if the right studio got ahold of it.

    Okay, now to finish the documentary.

  14. اليوم عرفت ليش ربنا مبتلي مليزيا في الزلازل والبراكين لان سمحو لعباد الصليب ان ينصرو القبائل البدائية في الغابت بدل ان يهدونهم لدين النور والتوحيد

  15. This makes me really sad. Unfortunately American culture will take over and they will all be enslaved to debt and materialism.

  16. He keeps saying the gov wont help them but if the gov helps the tribe they aren't tribal they're just beggers getting a hand out right …

  17. Sorry brother, looked as though it was going to be very interesting, but only made it o 2:41 before I bailed because it was too depressing, with all the logging and palm oil environmental damage.

  18. Thank you for sharing. I loved this video, such beautiful camera work. You did a great job and I hope you received much recognition for putting yourself in great danger and your hard work on this doc. . Wenatchee Washington USA. MAGA

  19. Every industrialized nation is guilty of destroying this beautiful people. The military of the United states and the militaries of every internationalized country has assisted large multinational corporations in securing resources in places such as this and in the Amazon jungle by eliminating any resistance. Then they make big promises designed to impoverish and enslave. The philosophical differences between us pagans and nature based spirituality and christianity is disturbingly obvious, christianity seeks to overcome and dominate nature, this veiw is seen in their architecture and their hyper consumerist attitudes they are the takers and the enemy of everything pure and natural. We all need and I mean NEED!! To never purchase or use any product containing palm oil and drive a world wide boycott on consumer products having originated from the equatorial regions of the planet, knowledge being the only exception. Large multinational corporations are the enemy of every person on earth, you think the government controls the military HA! Think again, they're withholding technologies you would not think possible, fossil fuels are no longer necessary for our energy needs yet these corporations exploit it and us for the holy dollar at the expense of all. Big government big business and big religion are the evil empire. Treat them as they treat you, with extreme prejudice.

  20. Tribals in the Indian subcontinent get so much. They get reservations in school, colleges,jobs.. they don't have to score much yet they can get scholarships in everything they wanna do and they get jobs and opportunities too as seats are already reserved for them, ST quota, their land is protected. No citizens from other part of the state are allowed to buy land there. They are almost all Christians now..and their original tribal tradition for which they are protected and catered for are on the verge of dying because of westernisation and they are borrowing and accepting western culture which is also hampering their tribal people who still want to keep their tradition alive.

  21. The World Timber Supply from Borneo are looted by the Government of the day, led by both Suharto and Mahathir( a mafia government )

  22. I am too originate from North Borneo but now live in the US. I was born near the jungle and as a child I had to gathered woods and foods from the jungle. The Malaysian government do not care about the indigenous tribes all over Malaysia. They treat them like low class citizen or petrified minority. All they cares about is money, election and their achievement off ravaging the tribal lands.

  23. Well. I thought I was smart and crafty. These people are geniuses. Those krantom leaves to relieve stress. I would need the tree. Ok who tried to remember what the meaning of the sticks/leaves were when trying to leave a message for others?

  24. It's so sad I wish I could do something for these people but I am just a poor nobody.But you can bet that if I had the way I would help 100%.

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