Land of the Apes and other Primates - Aug 2019
While waiting for migrant birds to return to our shores (some of them are already here in small batches for example the waders), i took the opportunity to explore a forest reserve in a northern state of Peninsular Malaysia recently. The place looks a bit like the location of Chongkak, Selangor but the jungles here are more pristine. There were however more mammals than birds in this forest. The absence of sharma and other song birds here are a cause for concern in this forest. They have probably been wiped out for the bird trade. Nevertheless the primates here seem to strive pretty well.
The first great ape to greet me was this "White-Handed Gibbon" (Hylobates lar).
I believe this is a female. She came down quite low to observe me for a moment before scrambling back to the tree top. Note: local primate researchers Dr Susan Lappan and Dr Nadine confirmed that the above gibbon is an adult female.
She is a lifer to me in terms of the great apes. This gibbon is currently listed as an endangered species and it is rightly so because i have never come across this species so far in my many birding trips across the peninsular. I think its population here is doing quite well as i saw at least 5 different individuals. Unfortunately no juveniles were seen. Here are a few more of them:
The one above is much browner and has kept its distance from me. Despite their big size they can swing easily among the tree branches just like the ones in the music video from the song "Adventure of a Lifetime". Notice the white color of its hand !
The one below was however quite aggressive. From the wider whitish outline around its face, i think it could be an alpha male. He was calling out loud and at the same time shaking the branches around him - probably trying to scare me off! Their calls are not as booming as the Siamangs but they are on a higher pitch.
All the above gibbons were seen from different trees about 50 meters apart.
Swinging nearby (about 100 meters away) were a few Dusky Langur (Trachypithecus obscurus). They are probably the 3rd most commonest primate you can encounter in the jungles over in this region after the naughty "Long-tailed Macaque" and the "Pig-tailed Macaque".
Dusky Langur (as observed) are also quite agile but hardly make any sound.
Parental guidance and viewers discretion are required for the next photo.
There was a troop of about 10 Pig-tailed Macaques seen. The one above was the alpha male who stopped at a tree trunk to observe me while the rest ran deep into the forest. They are not canopy dwellers as compared to the above two primates as they were seen foraging on the ground before my presence. If you are a primatologist, this would be an ideal place for your research and conservation works as there were 3 different species of primates seen within a radius of 500 meters..
I think the above should be R. bicolor as its overall color is darker.
Most of the birds seen here can also be seen at your usual birding spots such as Black headed Bulbul, Gold-whiskered Barbet, Sooty Barbet, Abbott's Babbler etc. Here are just a few decent photos of them: