Readers may have been wondering where the intrepid squirrel had disappeared to that he wasn’t even participating actively in the “Dead or Alive” debate of the previous post. Of course, readers may not even have noticed my absence but I try not to think about that.
Well, this brave explorer and tenacious reporter risked his furry neck by venturing into the dark heart of Borneo ……….. the mysterious land of head-hunters (the vicious head cutting type and not the corporate recruiter offering you a better job type) and pygmies. Yes, there are pygmies in this magical land and from my forward exploration base ( also known as the remarkable Borneo Rainforest Lodge) in the Danum Valley Conservation Area, I got to see three different pygmies.
This little Pygmy played the trumpet…..
We went out on a jeep in the middle of the night along a jungle track. If you looked straight up, you could see the stars shining brightly in the cloudless sky but when you looked around, the rainforest pressing in on us was all darkness. We had a spotter sitting on the roof of the jeep and his job was to shine a very bright spotlight into the inky blackness in the hopes of spotting an animal or catching its eye-shine (light reflected back by the tapetum lucidum, a layer located behind the retina and which is particularly bright fin the case of nocturnal animals). And so, as we bumped along the track, we saw in turn, a couple of Sambar Deer, a distant slow loris, a sleeping bird, an agamid lizard, a bearded pig and an owl. Then, as we nearly reached the furthest point of our night expedition, we turned round the corner and right in front of us was a herd of about 8 pygmy elephants grazing on the roadside vegetation. (These elephants are the smallest of all Asian elephants). For one frozen moment, the elephants looked at our dropped jaws with their wide startled eyes and then with a grunt, they stormed away to a safe distance. From there they eyed us suspiciously while we enjoyed observing them for the next 15 minutes with only the sound of their feeding and an occasional deep growl. What a successful night excursion!
This little Pygmy had some lunch…….
The next morning, I left the camp really early with some bird-watchers. Early means 5.30 am. The forest was alive with the sound of birds chirping and the whooping of gibbons. Then came the unmistakable whoosh whoosh whoosh sound of the beating wings of hornbills. I followed the large birds and found them roosting in one of the tallest trees. We saw rhinoceros, helmeted, wreathed, pied and black hornbills. Then suddenly, a noise in a nearer tree got our attention and there hanging some 30 feet off the ground was the smelly pygmy …..el Pongo pygmaeus; otherwise known as the Orangutan, a name that means “Jungle Man”. I took this picture by placing my camera at the end of a telescope. I am quite pleased with the result.
And this little Pygmy went “¡Ándale! ¡Ándale!” all the way home.
On my last day, we were again walking about in the forest when a companion drew my attention to tiny dark silhouette clinging to a thin climber vine. Before I could say “squirrel” it zipped up the vine and out of sight like a runaway wind-up toy. The 10 cm long creature is as energetic and fast as the famous Speedy Gonzales. I was pleased to see my distant cousin as he zipped by. Wish he could have stayed to chat for awhile but perhaps next time.
All three pygmies of Borneo were a real treat to see.
The last photo was from Dig Deep.