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What’s Happening Wednesday? #9 We quiz our visiting gibbon Professor!

Fan in Sabangau – His first visit to Indonesia!

Working in Outrop” by our visiting gibbon Professor, Fan Peng-Fei ! Fan says Hello to OuTrop, on #9 What’s Happening Wednesday…

“I have been studying gibbons for 11 years in China before I came here. I studied Nomascus concolor between 2003 and 2006 in Wuliangshan National Nature Reserve and N. nasutus since 2007 in Bangliang Gibbon Nature Reserve. All my study groups of both species are bi-female group with two breeding adult females in the group. 

Most gibbons normally live in social monogamous groups in south-east Asia (one female and one male per group). So I am very interested in the evolution and flexibility of gibbon social and mating system. In order to answer this question, I need to study social monogamous groups!

Fan’s research site in China – “Bangliang Karst Forest”

I met Dr. Susan Cheyne in Kyoto University in the 2010 Conference of International Society of Primatology. From her interesting presentation and our discussion, I then knew of Sabangau forest and the OuTrop website. Since then, I read news from the website regularly and became more and more interested in the OuTrop project. With Susan’s help, I applied to do a 3-month research in Sabangau forest in September 2012. Four months later, I am here in Sabangau to study Hylobates albibarbis. Thanks, Susan! Without her kind help, it would of been impossible to make this trip.

Fan’s first sightings of OuTrop Group C

I will observe Group C and Karate (the two main OuTrop gibbon grousp) 5 full days each month. I want to collect some data about their feeding party size, feeding bout length, and feeding tree size. I will compare all these parameters between H. albibarbis and N. nasutus, and then try to document food competition within gibbon group is the main ecological factor limited gibbon group size.

Two adult females in one group – Nomascus nasutus species

Although I have good experiences working in forest, I have never worked in a peat-swamp forest before. This month is right in the middle of the wet season here. Water is everywhere! Stepping into water in the early morning is a little bit uncomfortable. But everything is going behind my mind once I find gibbons. I just try my best to follow them as long as possible. My target gibbon groups here are well habituated and my local guides are well trained (Thank you, to all the guys!), so we can always follow them to sleeping areas, but not always sleeping trees! They are so fast when they are heading to their sleeping trees. Even we can predict their fast moving after 14:00, we just can not follow them to sleeping trees in the water! It is more difficult to follow gibbons to sleeping trees here than in my own site. This month, I just found 3 sleeping trees. I hope I can find more sleeping trees in the coming days which means I do not need to search for them every morning.I have been ‘got’ by several hairy caterpillars here and I am very sensitive with them. When I first arrived, I did not sleep well for several nights – a little horrible because I need to get up at 3:30 in the morning and work in the forest till 15:30! But that is OK comparing to what I have learned here.
Sabangau forest is so beautiful and such important for H. albibarbis because it supports the largest population of this species(!) with around 50,000 individuals, which is 30 times of the total gibbon population in China!! China lost most of its primary forest in southern provinces in the past 50 years and gibbon population decreased rapidly, with two gibbon species (Hylobates lar and N. leucogenys) might already disappeared from China’s forest. I hope Indonesia government can protect its grand forest and rich biodiversity.

I am enjoying myself in Sabangau and I am very happy I am here! “

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