Oil Palm Plantations and Bezoar Stones: An Ethnographic Sketch of Human–Nature Interactions in Sarawak

  • Katsumi Okuno
  • Tetsu Ichikawa
Part of the Advances in Asian Human-Environmental Research book series (AAHER)


Over the last 10 years, indigenous populations of Sarawak have gained previously unseen sums of money from hunting porcupines and selling bezoar stones found in their stomachs which are valued in Chinese medicine. This has spurred new and expanded hunting methods, impacting on the relationships between humans and nature. At first glance, the boom in bezoar stones seems to have become widespread after the expansion of oil palm plantations. To investigate this further, multisited research was conducted in bezoar stone source areas, along the downriver trading network and in metropolitan cities where they are consumed. It was found that the progress of the bezoar stone boom among indigenous populations in Sarawak varied by river basin. As far as the relationship between oil palm plantations and porcupine bezoars is concerned, we can see an ‘inter-disturbance’ interaction between humans and nature. The expansion of oil palm plantations can be described as a ‘human disturbance’ in this tropical natural environment, while the porcupines that eat the oil palm fruits can be described as a ‘natural disturbance’ to human lives, providing inhabitants with opportunities to garner vast sums of money from the bezoars.


Sarawak Bezoar stones Porcupines Leaf monkeys Oil palm plantations Chinese medicine 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katsumi Okuno
    • 1
  • Tetsu Ichikawa
    • 2
  1. 1.Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences Society and CollaborationRikkyo UniversityToshimaJapan
  2. 2.Nagoya City UniversityNagoyaJapan

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