The Battle of the Beetles in Southeast Asia
In Northern Thailand, the Shan areas in Myanmar and Northern Laos’ Tai communities, beetle fighting is a traditional entertainment popular with the people for generations. Young boys and men alike will venture off into the jungle in the early morning, shake trees and pick the strongest ones off the ground. These Siamese Rhinoceros Beetles are then prepared to be prized fighters.
The grooming of a beetle warrior starts on the very first day. The owner of the Rhinoceros Beetle feeds it a diet of sugar cane and bananas which many believe help them grow stronger. The beetle enthusiasts would then train these insects on movement and basic commands like turning left and right or moving backward and forward. Training of these insects would go on for months until it is time to fight.
Beetle fights usually take place on September to November, which coincides with the species’ mating season. The arena is nothing more than a piece of log about a meter or so long. A small hole is made to house the female beetle in, whose scent instigates the opposing male beetles to lock horns and battle. A winner is declared if one is able to lift the other with its horns, if the losing beetle attempts to escape, or if one beetle does not show an interest in fighting. Losing beetles are usually given a mate after the match and set free. Winners, however are given the privilege of mating with their favorite female which then produce valuable offsprings.
Beetle fighting is seen as animal cruelty to some. There are people, especially beetle enthusiasts who advocate it for the following reasons. For one, beetle owners claim to love and care for their pets. They are fed with the most nutritional food and looked after in the same way as a pet owner would to their cats, dogs, etc. Second, these insects are considered pests to farmers because the beetle larvae kill banana and coconut trees. Beetle enthusiasts ensure that some insects do not get exterminated and feel they are doing their part in contaminating the pest population. Third, beetle fighting advocates lay claim that beetle fighting is not a deadly outcome for the contestants. The insects do not fight to the death and the aggressive behaviors of these beetles are natural pre-mating instincts.
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Exotissimo arranges tours in Northern Thailand and the Shan states.
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