Monday, July 22, 2013


If all the gibbon groups were like E, I would be VERY happy to be almost done here. It had been a while since we had followed E, and I had almost forgotten that I HATE (following) THEM. Today I was reminded of this fact. I was reminded in a muddy, sweaty, bloody fury of the agony that is involved in following E. Now, I can't fully blame the misery that is following E on the gibbons. It is their territory that contributes to half of the misery. It is full of steep ridges and valleys and lots of crumbly slippery mud (especially after a night of rain, like today). The trees are high, and there are a lot of vines and stabby palm plants (which I discovered are actually called rattan palms, but I don't think this name does them justice). The other problem is Elane. She is an absolute              ( fill in the blank, hint: starts with a B ends with an ITCH). Noi, the male, is perfectly habituated, but his mate, Elane, joined the group as an adult from somewhere outside the range of habituated gibbons. So she was never habituated, and her aversion to people has not lessened, probably because no sane person wants to run around E territory for hours trying to gain her trust. So, when she sees you she usually rushes away while you end up tangled in the spikes of a rattan while trying desperately to keep up.

Anyway, we hadn't even been planning on following E today. We were going to head back to M, and hope they had finished their two-day standoff with N, to do the leopard experiment. As we were leaving however, a ranger walked up to us, apparently ready to aid us with a playback. Yun had convinced someone else to help us for once, but hadn't notified Julie. So, not wanting to turn him away and set a bad precedent, since it is so stinking hard to get a ranger in the first place, we ran and got the playback equipment and headed off to E. This was a last minute choice on Julie's part, which had seemed reasonable at the time. After setting up the loudspeaker we set off in the direction of a male solo coming from the border of T and E. We arrived to find neither T or E (whose males are both black) but instead a white male singing his lungs out. We stayed a while thinking E might come, and sure enough Noi soon arrived to meet the white male. We don't know who the male was, a young white male had been seen with E on occasion but it was thought to be Naam, the juvenile of N (neighboring group) and nephew of Noi. We didn't think that this male was Naam though, so it is a mystery. When Noi finally lost interest in the white male, he rushed back to Elane. While trying to keep up I fell/slid on my butt at least three times. The worst of which involved landing directly on a fallen spiney palm frond and having one of the thorns driven deep into the heel of the hand I used to catch myself. I pulled it out and it hasn't stopped throbbing since. I am almost certain it is going to get infected because I was also covered in mud after this particular fall, and the wound is very deep but small. Once we caught up with the group, we thought we had gotten lucky because Elane clearly saw us, but didn't rush away. She apparently taught her fearful ways to her infant though because he/she took one look at us and swung away squealing. Of course mom and dad followed, and eventually we lost them all completely. So after trying to find them again for over an hour, we gave up and huffed and puffed our way out of their cursed territory. Thankfully, we won't be going back there again while I am here.

Also thankfully, all the gibbons groups are NOT like E. Many of them have easy territories and all of them (that we study) are well habituated. This is why I am not happy to be almost done here. I am very sad to be leaving behind silly William who loves to sing like he is big and bad but is actually a huge coward when it comes to real confrontation (sounds like some people right?). I'll miss the precious little M infant with its fluffy gray butt. I'll miss Baak, the worlds worst singer, who considers quantity more important than quality when it comes to great calls. I could go on. In a nutshell, I will miss most of the gibbons, and it is so sad to think we only have three days left in the forest (and that is if it doesn't rain!).

So, here are some pictures of two groups of gibbons I DO like. These were taken during the longest intergroup meeting I've ever witnessed. For a full twenty-four hours (at least) M and N sat at the overlap of their territories and gently antagonized one another. Overall though it was fairly peaceful, a little bit of chasing by the males and some singing, but mostly just sitting around near each other in some sort of battle of wills over who would give up and leave first.

 M group: Rung, Chikyu and infant
 Malai (white) and mom Rung
 Malai and Rung
 The entire N group was in the same tree! (Claude isn't in the photo because he was further)
L to R: Hima and black infant, Nan (young juvenile), Nithat (black) and Naam (older juvenile)
 Hima and infant
one with both their faces for once!
Hima yawning

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