Gibbons calling

One of my most recent trips into the forest was probably one of the most exciting.

I’m very lucky to be hosting a good friend here over Christmas and I wanted to make sure that he got the full jungle experience. So, on his first day in the rainforest, at 3.45 am we left camp and headed to the ‘sleeping tree’ of Karate group of gibbons. We heard them singing (more on this below) and headed for the sound.

We awaited them underneath the tree and followed them when they began moving.

Following gibbons is incredibly challenging, particularly now that the wet season has returned and a lot of the time is spent wading through thigh-deep water, avoiding pandan that tears cuts as fine as hairs all over your skin and half falling in the former illegal logging canals.

Over rhe course of the day we had an incredible succession of events. Karate Group ran into Group C of gibbons, so all of a sudden we were surrounded by eight gibbons, which made identifying individuals terribly difficult for Research Assistant Helene.

We also realised that nearby were Feb and Fio, mother and infant orangutan. It was difficult to know where to look or to point the camera.

Photos from this day are here.

And then the gibbons started signing, letting each other know they were there and performing the incredible great call.

My friend Ken took a great recording of this. Have a listen here.

We also think we may have seen something very unusual (as if the group interaction weren’t already enough). We think, but need to confirm, whether we witnessed the adult male gibbon of one group mating with the female of the other group. This has only been recorded two or three times before in this species and if so would be very significant.

Eventually the two groups decided to part ways and we continued to follow just Karate. Following gibbons is very fast-paced – they can brachiate (swing) through the trees very quickly and easily leave you in their wake as you rush and trip among the dense vegetation and hidden holes that sink you up to your waist.

All was going as normal until they encountered a group of hornbills, four of which started attacking them. This was one of the most incredible combinations of wildlife I’ve ever witnessed.

Having spent so much time interacting with Group C, Karate Group of gibbons spent a long time feeding and went to their sleeping tree later than normal at around 2.15pm.

On our way back to the camp, just as we heard the deep, ominous sound of rain approaching, we heard rustling to our left and realised that we had come across a group of macaques.

It was a truly magical day that epitomised how full to the brim such a small area of rainforest is and how important it is to preserve habitats like this. And I think it’s fair to say that my friend certainly had a great forest experience.

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