The Gibbons of Huay Pakoot
On Wednesday we set off for a Biodiversity hike along the dirt track at the bottom of the village. The track is 1000 metres, marked out in to 25m sections. The first 800m seemed ordinary (as ordinary as seeing a variety of crazy creepy crawlies can be), mass amounts of Harvestmen, various caterpillars, spiders, butterflies, moths etc.
By the 500m mark the five of us couldn’t help but be little distracted by the distant call of a gibbon as we continued scouting for insects and other wildlife. By the 700m mark, it was impossible to stay focused on the trail rather than scouting the tallest trees in the area for the mysterious gibbon, its calls getting closer and closer.
We reached the 800m mark. I almost glanced over a tall tree quite a distance away, but a flash of movement caught my eye. I stared at where I’d seen the movement, a good 200m to 300m away, thinking I’d just imagined it. As I pointed out the tree to another volunteer, the gibbon leapt down to a lower branch- we’d found it!
The gibbon, commonly referred to as ‘Rodger’ by the project manager, ducked in and out of sight for at least 20 minutes as we watched with binoculars and high zoom cameras, occasionally showing us his white face. In my fifth week on the project, I was lucky enough to see one of these rare creatures; some people go six months without seeing one.
The white handed gibbon or Hylobateslar, is considered to be endangered. They’re rarely found in large groups and are territorial creatures, which is precisely the reason we were able to find Rodger; often Gibbons will call out and swing around to mark out their territory. A local who spends much of his time in the forest surrounding Huay Pakoot has told us that there are only around 25 gibbons in the area, yet we’d still managed to find Roder!
But our luck wasn’t to end there. As we stood watching Rodger, two sets of calls came from behind us, closer and more distinct than those of our good mate Rodger. We ventured further along the dirt track, and much to our surprise, the two gibbons (one named Roger were spotted in the same tree- no more than 150m away!
We had been lucky enough to see not one, but three gibbons, two of which were clearly visible without binoculars as they swung around with each other and howled to one another. The timed biodiversity trail was abandoned as we watched the gibbons, an absolutely amazing sighting and a major highlight of being on this project!
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