Written by Eka Cahyaningrum (BNF primate scientist)
June and July are difficult months for us in our beloved Sebangau peat-swamp forest. Not only because it’s ‘ floody’ months but also because all the primates went under the radar. In the first week, we were a bit disappointed, because even with 8 people in the forest, no one could not find any Kelasi (red langur) and orangutans! The difficulties of finding primates made the team back on taking daily behaviour and habituation data.
Based on our discussion as to why that happened, we predicted that the primates travelled further and deeper in the forest because food is scarce around their initial home ranges. One time, during another unfruitful search, we made a gag that those primates disappear because they probably have new babies, therefore they are quieter. But of course, we tossed that idea aside, because what are the chances of all the groups having a baby in the same month?
After searching for so many days and found nothing, we started getting information from the other teams in the forest that they saw a gibbon and Kelasi females carrying a baby. After we heard that information, we started searching again with a newfound determination.
One afternoon, we heard Kelasi loud call behind our camp, we then tried to get closer and waited in very quietly. Because that group behind the camp is only partially habituated, we need to be more cautious so as to not stress them out with our presence. After waiting for a while, we saw movements getting closer, and at that time we saw a small white baby clinging to its mother’s body! In the following days, we finally found all the groups, and we saw a new baby in two of our Kelasi groups and one baby in gibbon group A.
These new findings made us a bit more careful during a follow and habituation since primates tend to get stressed and more alarmed with a new member in their group.
The birth of three new babies might not sound much, but in primate’s long inter-birth intervals, this is very appealing and then gave us a lot of things to think about.
Each of us must be able to protect the planet, and the primates carrying the babies out to the world might be their way of doing their part to guard the forest as these babies will later grow as the future ‘gardener of the forest’. The birth of a new baby in the forest is one of their ways to tell us who work to protect them, that there is still the future for the forest, and that we should continue to protect that future.