The tatabi is a green insect similar to a roach. It lives in the caves of the Boulgou, Gounturet and Tamarzé mountains, at about 600 meters above sea level, outside of the range of fires. Usually the insects leave their holes slightly before the new moon, towards October or November, a period that corresponds to the beginning of the harvest and the end of the growing season for many garden products.
Many ceremonies are tied to the gathering of tatabi. Before the hunt begins an elder consults with the mountain to find out how it will go and if there will be any risks involved. The mountain requires a sacrifice before the hunt can begin, and it communicates both the method for the ritual as well as the provenance of the animal to be sacrificed. The sacrifice could be a domesticated animal like a ram, goat, rooster or ox, or it could be a wild animal.
At the end of this rite of atonement the elders and those who were involved in the sacrifice establish a tingssoga, or a calendar for the hunt, which begins at seven pm and takes place at night by torchlight. The tatabi are always hunted in groups and never alone, because a legend holds that evil spirits take advantage of the occasion to set traps for the hunters. For example, they place huge nests of totobi on cliffs to attract the greediest hunters, and once they are inside the cleft the hunters, unless they are incredibly strong, are swallowed by the mountain. At the end of the night each hunter gives a part of the spoils to the village chief and to the person in charge of the sacrifice.
Tatabi are eaten grilled during a festival in honor of the village chief. These festivals go by different names for the various mountains: Tangaré for the Gounturet Mountains, Garango for the Boulgou Mountains and Pagou for the Tamarzé Mountains. These are organized every three years and during the event the chief cuts his hair, sits on a throne and shares his tatabi and dolo (a drink made of fermented millet) with his guests.
Today it is very rare to find tatabi for sale in the market. This is due first of all to the desertification that has made the proliferation of these insects much more difficult. Additionally, the younger generations are not very interested in the traditional tatabi hunt.