Despite the long dry season we are experiencing in Sumatra, a few hours of rain can have a dramatic affect on the forest landscape, as I discovered on the research team's latest forest trip.
On one of our first nights, very heavy rain left many of our survey transects impassable the next day, with small streams having risen by up to two metres in some cases. Our eight transects are chosen before the trip and are used to survey mammals, birds and habitat. If we come across an obstruction to our planned route, we must find a quick way around.
Where possible, we use fallen trees to get across the deep waters. In some cases, this could mean a long walk to find a suitable crossing, so a quick swim in the cold water is necessary – not always a bad thing when you’re trekking in 35°C heat and 90% humidity.
The team became adept at quickly constructing little rafts out of fallen branches and vines to carry our equipment across. I learned that it’s always worth removing your boots before swimming across a river as trapped air makes it very difficult to keep them below the water, although this did provide much hilarity for the team!
Working with local communities and collaborating with local partners is key to Harapan Rainforest’s success. A film just released by a project partner, Jambi NGO KKI-WARSI, shows some of the activities that have been going on in villages around Harapan Rainforest over the past 3 years or so.
Follow this link to view the film on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFLq-K9pdAE
The complete film is about 15 minutes long, and is split into three parts. The link above is to the first part, and links within YouTube will let you view parts 2 and 3.
You will be able to see how local communities feel they have been marginalised as forests has been encroached by immigrants to the area and how our ecosystem restoration approach, including support for sustainable livelihoods, is starting to make a real difference.
Pay attention to what's happening behind Ali Gondang in film 1 (about 2 mins 20 seconds in). What’s that thing swinging back and forth?
Deep in the forest, I woke at 4.30 in the morning to walk to our gibbon survey points under the cover of darkness, itself an exhilarating experience.
Arriving at the survey spot, I prepared for a morning of recording calling gibbons. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of bright colour in the first morning light and turned quickly to see what is always a wonderful forest sight: a pitta! In this case, the near-threatened Garnet Pitta. Pittas are elusive, rainbow-coloured birds of the forest floor. They flick over the leaf litter to search for snails and worms. If disturbed, they often hop away rather than flying.
To my surprise, another flash signalled the presence of second bird. As I watched them throughout the morning it became clear they were foraging for insects and returning to a fallen log not 6m from where I sat. A log that was chirping!
With the improving light I was privileged to see two young birds emerge who, after a few tentative steps, quickly paired up with a parent bird and hurriedly disappeared into the undergrowth.
A truly amazing wildlife moment!