There is a customary regulation of forest use in Seram Island, Maluku, Eastern Indonesia, which is called seli kaitahu. This paper describes seli kaitahu forest management. The main findings of the field research in Manusela village, located in the interior forest of Central Seram, can be summarized in the following five points: 1) The major forest use pattern is the hunting of cuscus, timor deer, and wild boar. These game animals are indispensable for local people who are highly dependent on sago, which is mainly composed of pure starch. 2) In order to obtain wild meat, local people erect two kinds of traps in the forest: sohe for cuscus, and hus panah for timor deer and wild boar. 3) From the view point of land tenure, the forest as a hunting ground can be classified into household forest and kin-group forest. 4) Although the “ownership” of each forest lot belongs to a household or a group of joint owners, the actual patterns of forest use can be described as nonexclusive. If permission is given by the owner or the head of the joint ownership group, villagers are able to use the forest held by another owner/joint ownership group. 5) Based on the results of field research concerning the use of seli kaitahu, 104 (76%) forest lots out of 138 are preserved by seli kaitahu.
Although the ecological function of the seli kaitahu system is still not precisely clear, judging from the fact that hunting is banned in most forest lots, it may be reasonable to conclude that seli kaitahu plays an important role in sustaining game animal populations.
2003 The Japan Society of Tropical Ecology