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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

31 December 2010

The funky gibbon

30th December 2010

Today was our best day for wildlife, though I still can’t give Bau any credit for it. We set out for an early 6:30AM paddle again and this time as we explored we were serenaded by the haunting song of the gibbon. Very reminiscent of the Indri in Madagascar, the troops of gibbons sing to each other across the treetops, presumably to remind each other of their territory and that Vernon still needs to return Roger’s electric juicer.

We caught a glimpse of a wild boar and some dusky langurs, then the rustle of a tree made us back water and pause our kayaks. A few moments later the mournful wailing

melody started up right in front of us; there were gibbons in the tree, invisible but singing. With some patience and careful kayak maneuvers, all very quietly, we finally got some glimpses of the long-limbed apes. We thought there were just two of them, a black male and a rust-orange female. This species are white-handed gibbons, and the male looked like a black minstrel singer with his white gloves on. Their rendition lasted perhaps ten minutes, then with an easy pendulum grace they swung down from the tree into the dense jungle and were gone. When we looked at the photos later, none very sharp due to distance and darkness, we noticed that there had actually been three of them – although the baby probably didn’t join in the chorus.

In the afternoon, after some cajoling, we persuaded Bau and Mu to take us in the longtail to the more distant Khlong Saeng part of the lake as this is meant to be better yet for wildlife. Mu I should explain is a diminutive Thai lady who seems to be “second boss” of Paddle Asia. She’s very noisy and laughs a lot, and I suspect charms almost everyone.

Khlong Saeng turned out to be really exceptional. We saw three different groups of gaur, disembarking to follow some on foot and unfortunately (though astonishingly) about 200kg of human managed to scare 20+ tonnes of bovine which ran off into the jungle. We saw any number of wild boar, two kinds of deer, several hornbills, long-tailed macaques and a very brief glimpse of a pangolin which scuttled into the bushes. Okay, the tail of a pangolin, but being just about the only mammal with scales instead of fur we could hardly mistake it.

We had to leave Khlong Saeng at about 4:30, as it’s over an hour back to the bungalows and dangerous to be out after dark in a longtail with a teenage driver. As the guy at the ranger station said, most of the animals come out around dusk, so I can only imagine how great a dedicated trip to stay in Khlong Saeng for a couple of days would be.

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