SIPORA—Some women are soaking in Goisooinan River, North Sipora, Mentawai Islands. They are about to harvest toek (Bactronophorus sp), a mollusk from the bibalvia class that lives inside pieces of tumung tree logs soaked in the brackish river. One of them lifted the floating, rope-tied piece of tumung log.
On a river rock, they axed the log, which had become a toek nest, until it split open. Inside wriggled a white, translucent worm-like mollusk. The toek had made the log its nesting burrow. The toek is 10 to 30cm long. At the end of its tail is a shell like a clam shell, white in colour and small in size.
The women work quickly to remove the toek from its nest one by one and place it in a plastic container, ready to be sold. Most toek enthusiasts come directly to the river, many even wading in the river to take the toek from the nest and eat the fresh toek right away. One piece of toek nest wood costs Rp150,000 to Rp200,000.
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Dian Novita, 30, one of the women who cultivates toek, said that every family in Goisooinan Village has a toek nest log in the river. "Besides for our own needs, this is also an additional economic benefit for Mentawai women here, because the ones who take care of the toek are women," she said.
Men only help to take the logs from the forest and roll them to the riverbank. The rest of the work to make the toek house is done by women.