Thursday, November 15, 2018
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No mammals were injured in the filming of these videos

 

Red Giant Flying Squirrel

Red Giant Flying Squirrel

(L'écureuil volant géant rouge as they might say it in French with an overload of adjectives)

A number of these amazing animals were recorded at the canopy walk at the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia. They are crowd pleasers and we were happy to see 3 of them every evening we were there. As the light in the forest faded away and the glow of the sunset highlights the jungles' silhouette, the grinding sound of the evening cicadas seem to set the stage for the gliding performers' entrance - almost like a drum roll, except there is no crashing cymbal when the red wings land on the tree trunk because the touchdowns are so gentle.

 

Due to my excitement and mostly my amateurish camera skills, it was difficult to capture the flight properly. As you will see in the video below, I could only manage this one proper launch from the tree trunk, followed the squirrel's flight path and hoping to capture the landing but alas, a foreground tree trunk was right in front of the landing spot. I was fortunate that there was immediately another flight to the same tree trunk by another willing acrobat and I was able to patch up the missing landing.

Initially we were concerned that our torches would be too bright and would disturb the flying herbivores but they didn't seem bothered. I even thought they enjoyed the limelight because the more we shone, the longer they stayed at one spot and picked the leaves illuminated by our light.

Update: More shots of this amazing glider

 

Keeping the fur in tip top condition...


Dusky Leaf-monkey

I came upon this interesting troop of leaf-monkeys that were feeding off a sandy rock-face in Maxwell's Hill (Bukit Larut).

It was quite an interesting find. Although the dusky leaf-monkeys are normally not shy they still usually keep a distance from us. But this time I was just a few feet from their young as the adults were busy licking what must be salt from the rock face.

The rock face was actually revealed by soil erosion which revealed a deep gash on this hill side. Tree roots can be seen behind the monkeys. I wonder how long the roots will hold before the further erosion brings down the trees. Nevertheless it seems to be quite stable and has been in that state long enough for mushrooms to appear.

The Dusky leaf monkey (Trachypithecus obscurus) is also known as the spectacled langur monkey or spectacled leaf monkey. It has large eye rings that look more like goggles and give the monkey a very adorable looking face. The adults also have some light grey fur on their heads.

In addition to the white circles around each eye, the dusky leaf monkey also has white skin surrounding its mouth region and creamy white coloring on its stomach region.

The babies are born a very bright orange or yellow. and after about six months, the fur starts to turn gray, and by ten months, the young monkey has usually darkened to a gray or a brown. So the babies in the video above should be older than 6 months old but the earlier part of video showed a younger baby carried by the parent.

Here's another video of the monkeys at the salt lick.

Recently, in June 2018, I had the pleasure of observing and photographing a troop of duskies relaxing during a hot afternoon. I was all alone and quite comfortable actually sipping a coffee and looking through some moth photos when the troop of about 10 crashed into my serene afternoon. I was hiding behind Nest's long dining, the roof and the orange tree. Moving quietly to reach out to my camera, I managed to setup and capture some nice long shot of this magnificent bunch. Simply love the hair and their antics. Here is something I had pieced together...
 

 


Dark-handed Gibbon

Awesome calls from this creature!!! This video is poor, I admit but it's mostly for the fabulous calls. Just a km up Bukit Larut and we were entertained by these dark-handed (Agile) Gibbons. It is said that it's the females who call out with those high low dueting songs, mainly to claim their territory or to communicate to other mammals to stay clear.

The Dark-handed (Hylobates agilis) is also called the Agile Gibbon and found in the rainforests of Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. I found a great paper done by Claire Thompson of the Anglia Polytechnic University on the vocalisations of the Agile Gibbon. Definitely worth the read.

Can't get enough of the calls so here's another bad video but with a bit of action.


Pygmy elephants

A year 2003 DNA analysis carried out by WWF and Columbia University found that the Borneo's pygmy elephants were genetically distinct from other Asian elephants, thereby recognizing it as a likely new subspecies and emphasizing its conservation priority.

According to the DNA evidence these elephants were isolated about 300,000 years ago from their cousins on mainland Asia and Sumatra. During that period, they became smaller with relatively larger ears, longer tails and straighter tusks.

The evolutionary history of Borneo's elephants justifies their recognition as a separate evolutionary significant unit (ESU).

Why not we go for a separate endemic species :BORNEAN PYGMY ELEPHANT, Elephas borneensis? This will make all elephants worldwide more unique and will help their conservation. Sabah needs all the land that about 600-1000 of them are roaming now, mostly next to oil palms in Sabah.

Let us all do our best and our part to make sure they will survive forever in the wilderness of Northeast Borneo - their natural and own home.

 


Siamang

It's been a wonderful Christmas 2013 with family all around; even better now with the sighting of this pair of adult Siamangs at the Botanical garden of the Japanese Village, Bukit Tinggi.

They were contently feeding on some pink fruits. The early morning rain coated their lush fur with sparkling beads of water and it was such a delight to witness this up close.

The Siamang is the largest of the South-east Asian gibbons. All black with long shaggy hair, it calls with a loud boom followed by  a series of whoops which can be heard from kilometres away. Both male and female possess a throat pouch which enlarges during calls.

The Siamang inhabits the mountains and hills of Malaysia's central range. Its diet consists of fruits, flowers, leaves, shoots, insects and bird eggs. It moves less but eats more leaves than smaller gibbons. Like most of our large mammal species, it is endangered due to declining forested havens, logging and illegal trapping for the pet trade.

I have discovered that the siamang seems to be a popular character in Malay sayings and folklore. The grandfather of a friend of mine used to chide her for being overly excited, "Lompat lari sana sini.. Nak jadi siamang?" (Running, jumping everywhere...want to be a siamang?).

I will update this article with another close encounter soon. Stay tuned...

Update: Here it is...sooner than I thought I could managed. Chin Hock and family and I were treated with another Christmas present sighting. Just a day after I saw the feeding Siamangs, we visited the Bukit Tinggi Botanical to look for the Siamangs on Christmas day but did not see them until we were driving away in the evening.

We pulled up by the roadside when we saw this male Siamang on the ground and wondered why it was there. Of course, we caused quite a stir with the Christmas crowd. Other cars started stopping and passer-bys snapped away their smart phones. Amazingly, even with the roaring traffic and tour buses with screaming children passing by, the Siamang didn't look the least stressed - just mildly irritated with the attention, I think.

Our first thoughts of the Siamang's presence on the ground was that it was injured but then it moved quite normally and went up a tree to feed on some pepper pods. Much to our delight, it took our intrusion quite well and seemed quite used to human activity. Probably, it was more interested in the pepper pods than us. 

After awhile, the Siamang had enough of our attention and decided to move on. It transited from the pepper tree to the high voltage cables on one side of the road to the centre section directly above the road. Curiously, it stopped in the centre for a short breather before proceeding to the other side. It seemed to move more slowly than other younger, more energetic Siamangs I've seen. So perhaps this was an older Siamang. (Do forgive the excessive camera-shake, I think we were a little excited and made a few missteps in the roadside grass) 

The Siamang finally reached the other side of the road and clambered up the branches to find a nice spot for a siesta. I understand why it must've been tiring for him as I too was tired with a neck ache but it sure was worth the while stopping over quite dangerously by the road for this rare close encounter. 

Hope you enjoyed the videos.

I found an interesting read from the Malay Archipelago (Vol 1) by Alfred Russel Wallace, MacMillan and Co. 1869, on his observations of the Siamang and thought it might be interesting to share it here:

“A very curious ape, the Siamang,  was also rather abundant, but it is much less bold than the monkeys, keeping to the virgin forests and avoiding villages. This species is allied to the little long-armed apes of the genus Hylobates, but is considerably larger, and differs from them by having the  two first fingers of the feet united together, nearly to the end, whence its Latin name,  Siamanga syndactyly It  moves much  more slowly than the active Hylobates, keeping lower down in trees,  and not indulging in such tremendous leaps ; but it is still very active,  and by means of its immense long arms, five feet six inches across in an adult about three feet high, can swing itself along among the trees at a great rate. I purchased a small one,  which had been caught by the natives and tied  up so tightly as to hurt it. It  was rather savage at first,  and tried to bite; but when we  had released it  and given it  two poles under the verandah to  hang upon, securing it by a short cord, running along the pole with a ring, so that it could move easily, it  became more contented,  and would swing itself about with great rapidity. It ate almost  any kind of fruit  and rice,  and I  was in hopes to have brought it to England, but it died just before I started. It took a dislike to me at first,  which I tried to get over  by feeding it constantly myself. One day, however, it bit me so sharply while giving it food, that I lost patience  and gave it rather a severe beating,  which I regretted afterwards, as from that time it disliked me more than ever. It  would allow my Malay boys to play with it, and for hours together  would swing by its  arms from pole to pole  and on to the rafters of the verandah, with so much ease  and rapidity, that it was a constant source of amusement to us. When I returned to Singapore it attracted great attention, as no one  had seen a  Siamang alive before, although it is not uncommon in some parts of the Malay peninsula.”


Smooth-coated Otters

I had a pleasant encounter with one of the two species of otters found in Singapore. A short distance from the carpark at Tebing Lane and along the cycling track of the Serangoon River came this family of otters from the opposite bank. The group of around 7 seemed to be feeding. As they dove and surfaced, fish scurried and leapt out of the water from the shallow riverside to avoid capture. It was a great feeling being able to see wild otters in Singapore. Some fun data on the otters... 

The smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)is the larger of the two species of Singapore otters, growing to about 1.3 meters. Found in our mangroves and mudflats, they are rarely seen and are in the list of Critically Endangered (Red List) of animals in Singapore. It is a fish hunter and also feeds on crustaceans, snails and clams.

If you do spot these mammals in Singapore, do put in a sighting here


White-thighed Leaf-monkey

You know it's your lucky day when an adult leaf monkey feeds ten feet from you.

And you know how privileged you are to capture it on video.

A pair of these leaf monkeys were foraging on trees near the High Pines bungalow Fraser's Hill and slowly moved closer and closer to us.

We were quite surprised how tame and bold this one adult was when it just sat on a branch in front of about 10 of us. It just ignored our whispers and discussion and went on his meal, efficiently picking off a select 5-leaf creeper plant and munched them up.

The white thighed leaf monkey is clearly identified with light grey to white patch on the outside of its legs and dark to black extremities. Overall it is mostly grey on its back with white patches on its chest and beard areas.

Here's another video of the monkey lapping up the leaves in slow mo.

 

 

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