As part of Year of the Gibbon 2015, Dr Susan Cheyne, OuTrop Director of Gibbon Research, introduces you to some of our wonderful gibbons and talks about why we have spent over 3,000 hours trekking through the peat-swamp forests of Borneo to learn more about them!
In May 2005 a small team began the slow process of habituating wild gibbons. These gibbons were not used to people and would stay silent or flee whenever we approached. It was not until October 2005 that we were finally accepted by one of the gibbons, an adult female who we named Cokolat (after an Indonesian music band). She was and still is the adult female of Group C. This was a major step forward, Cokolat accepted us and our journey into the lives of the gibbons began.
We are privileged to have been allowed to observe the lives of 27 gibbons in 6 groups over the last 10 years. We have seen baby gibbons born, grow and then leave their family group to form groups of their own.
Zhang Ziyi from Group Karate was about 3 years old when we first began to observe her family. She finally dispersed when she was about 7. Gibbons live in families and in our study area the group sizes vary between 3 – 5 individuals. We also have a lone male in the area.
The gibbons never come to the ground and following them is challenging. The forest is flooded for much of the year, there are many roots to trip over and the gibbons simply can move a lot faster than us! So, we have a few tricks to help us move through some parts of the forest. We use a boardwalk to access certain parts of the forest.
|The boardwalks make trekking through the forest a lot easier!|
But, why do we spend all this time habituating the gibbons and observing them?
1. Well, the more we learn about any species the better equipped we are to conserve and protect them.
2. When we started there were only a few long-term gibbon projects in Indonesia and none on Borneo.
3. Gibbons also live in areas where orangutans do not, like up in the mountains. This means learning about their impact on the forest, as seed dispersers or ‘gardeners’, is important to know how they help maintain an ecosystem.
4. Gibbons are pair-bonded and live in family groups so leaning about what size of habitat each family needs will help us protect large enough areas of forest for them.
5. We learn about family relationships and how young gibbons learn from their parents, such as singing, finding food and playing.
Keep following our updates for more about gibbons during the Year of the Gibbon 2015 and let’s hope for another 10 years of observing these fascinating apes and working for their protection and conservation!
Find out more about Year of the Gibbon here.