Volunteer sees once-in-a-lifetime primate behaviour!
My alarm went off at 3am; I was heading off on my first orangutan follow. I had been looking forward to experiencing the forest in the dark. With head torches on, we set off – attempting to navigate the mud holes, tree roots, and vines at the same time as keeping a lookout for eyes in the night or the rustle of leaves close by.It was still dark when we arrived at the nest of Gracia, her juvenile daughter, Georgia, and her six- month-old baby, Gretel. No one was stirring so we switched off our head torches and sat quietly, listening to the wonderful sounds of the forest and waiting for the first light to appear through the canopy.At around 4.45am we heard some movement from above, and Gracia and her little family left the nest to start their day. Gracia spent most of the morning eating various fruits and seeds and travelling through the treetops. Georgia was being her usual cheeky, curious self: throwing branches at us and climbing low to stare at the strange human faces looking back up at her. Around 11am, she climbed into a tree very close by and started madly shaking the branches. At first we thought she was just trying to intimidate us, but upon closer inspection I noticed another animal moving amongst the foliage. Much to our amazement and excitement it was a slow loris that had been rudely awakened from his sleep. It was great to catch a glimpse of the loris because it is a small, solitary nocturnal primate that is rarely seen in the forest.
Georgia continued to energetically shake the branches trying to dislodge the loris from its tree, and the little primate was hanging on for dear life as he endured the wild ride. When Georgia got too close to the loris it would swipe at her, causing her to rear backwards. Yet Georgia was very intent on making contact with this small creature, and would try again from a different angle.This rare encounter between an orangutan and a slow loris continued on for several minutes only meters from us before the loris bravely made its way onto the trunk of a tree nearby. A much more stable option than the flimsy branches of the sapling he was getting thrown around on. Due to the loris’ close proximity to us, Georgia then lost interest and went to join her mum and sister higher in the canopy. With the danger now gone, the loris turned its attention towards the other primate nearby, staring at us intently, likely never having seen a human before in its life. Once the orange menace had left, he was free to climb up the trunk in a slow ambling gait and before long was up high in the treetops and out of sight.
Spotting a slow loris in the forest is vey uncommon for the researchers here, and interactions between an orangutan and a loris have never been seen before in Sabangau Forest. We were incredibly fortunate to witness such an amazing event – more than I’d bargained for on my first orangutan follow!
Blog Post by Bronwyn Eva