Sharing knowledge, ideas and skills on our gibbon training day


Gibbon researcher, Hélène Birot, talks about an exciting training day on our gibbon behaviour project for local field staff. Training days are key to empowering our team, gaining new skills and knowledge, and to the overall success of our conservation and research projects.

We led a great training day for all the primate behaviour team about our gibbon project this month. It was an opportunity to talk about the scientific background of the project and to share knowledge. The priority for the day was to ensure our local staff understand the main aims of the gibbon research.


Azis and Supian, from our primate behaviour team, looking very happy during the training day! Photo by Suzanne Turnock/OuTrop

During this special day, the long-term behavioural data were explained and the new research projects were introduced to all members of the team. We recently decided to focus our research on mother-infant development because some of the gibbon families, that we study, had babies last year.

We used games to share knowledge and ideas, and to make the day fun! It is important for us to keep the attention of the team and for everyone to participate.

Azis K using his artistic talent to draw gibbon behaviours. Photo by Helene Birot/OuTrop

The day started with a presentation from our primate scientist about the gibbon project. All of the staff were attentive and concentrated. It was so rewarding to see their feelings expressed on their faces. Each person learnt something new and I could see a small light illuminate in their mind as we talked about the project.

Then we discussed the new behaviours we will record in the field. All the complicated behaviours were explained by examples, simulations and drawings. It was an excellent exchange with laughter, involvement and helping each other. We were very impressed by the motivation of all team members, and discovered a very talented artist, Jono!

Everyone getting involved. Photo by Suzanne Turnock/OuTrop

Gibbons are very good singers and use song to search for potential mates, strengthen social bonds and defend territories. We record data on their singing so it was very important to ensure our staff understand the different songs. We listened to recordings of different gibbon vocalisations made by female, male and juvenile gibbons. We tested the knowledge of the staff with a quiz and discussed the significance of the singing. Azis K has a perfect pitch. He can easily differentiate female and male singing, and identify individual gibbons by only using their song! This is not an easy thing to do, but his talent shined through.

We can’t do a gibbon training day without going into the forest! The day finished with a training session in the jungle. Each person had to estimate the height and distance of selected trees and identify the species. Conclusion of this test…. everybody has excellent eyes and the Indonesian team definitely know their tree species!! Their knowledge of the forest always amazes me.

In spite of some cold and fatigue, all participants were enthusiastic, dynamic and focused. The feedback from the team was very positive. They learnt more about the different types of gibbon vocalisations, are more confident with the new behaviours that we will be using and even asked for more training in the future! What more could we ask for or as our field staff said….

“Kami sangat senang dan suka perlatihan!” or “We are really happy and like training!”

Azis and Adul very focused on their training! Photo by Helene Birot/OuTrop

This year OuTrop will be focusing on training our local field staff in a range of new skills; from computer skills to behavioural data analysis to using drones for conservation mapping and more! More updates to follow!

Find out more about previous training on the orangutan behaviour project and why capacity building is so important to OuTrop.

Find out more about Year of the Gibbon here