I woke all excited at 5:00 am to head out to the Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary near Kaziranga National Park and Jorhat in Assam. The day started with a small blip: my guide was missing. I had to go to his house and wake him up – it turned out he had slept late after a night of theatre and drinking with friends. Apparently with the tip I had given him the previous evening.
But the guide was good. He had made advance arrangements with another guide to spot the Gibbons and wait for us there. When I saw the family, I was a little disappointment: I was imagining they would look like those Great African Apes you see in National Geographic. I was even visualising sitting with them for photos – and feeding them bananas I specially carried.
Click on any image for a larger view. See more images on Facebook even if you are not a member.
These Gibbons are much smaller, and a little bigger than monkeys. They were only to be seen on the upper branches of tall trees – they never come down – making it tough for my neck. I had to keep looking up, balancing a heavy zoom lens on my eyes to ensure I caught the moment. They were mostly camouflaged by leaves – and their complexion did not make photography easier. And when they would swing, they did so in the blink of an eye. But I did have fun following them for a few hours – even if I had to shrug of leeches off me.
Here is a little extract from the book Hoolock: The Ape of India by Dilip Chetry, Rekha Chetry and P.C. Bhattacharjee:
“Anyhow a cup of tea we were on the way to try spot the Hoolock Gibbons. Of all the species of apes, these are the representatives of apes in India. They not only resemble man in many ways, but also share 95 percent of genetic material with us.
Gibbons are the smallest of all apes and are close to humans in intelligence and social structure. Of 350 species of primates, Gibbons are represented by 16 species. The Hoolock Gibbon found in the North East of India is one of them, and smaller than the Gorilla, Chimpanzee and Orangutan (Great Apes). Gibbon is thus referred to as the Lesser Ape, or even the Small Ape. They are also more primitive than their great counterparts.
Being primates, Gibbons are also social in their behaviour. And are unique in having a monogamous social structure – the same male and female spend their lives together. They are also excellent acrobats. They dwell on canopies of forests – their longer forearms compared to the legs and bodies enable them to brachiate in the top strata of forests. (Brachiation is a form of movement in which primates move from one limb of a tree to another using only their arms. Gibbons can brachiate at speeds of up to 35 mph (55 kmph) and mover 20 feet (6 m) in one swing.)
Gibbons are also protective of their home range, the area in which a family makes its habitat. Gibbons are frugivores – they eat fruits (mainky ripe juicy ones) mostly, but also take in leaves, leaf buds, flowers, flower buds, petiole and animal protein (insects, bird eggs etc).”
Would you like to receive Kunzum’s weekly e-newsletter? Click here to subscribe.