Sunday, April 21, 2024
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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.”