In the morning breeze of tropical rainforest of Southern Sumatra, a colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus) glided and landed at a branch of tree. This ancient mammal of Southeast Asia reminded me of the ancient age when flying ability was evolved. Jump, climb, or glide. With the grayish color, this mammal is well camouflaged when resting on tree bark.
To my count, I rarely saw this animal. Field projects in this camp in which I usually involved, have mostly focused on endangered primates such as the gibbons or ecologically important birds such as the hornbills and other frugivores. They are all seed disperser, mostly have larger home range, and of course are easily detectable. The siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) or the agile gibbon (Hylobates agilis), although can be high in the forest canopy are usually detected through their territorial calls in the morning or through the sound of their leaping and jumping movement in the canopy. Different hornbill species demonstrate different calls and some of my friends can even distinguish them by their wing beat.
The colugo may be rarely seen. But do they actually rare? The probability of detecting a colugo in the forest is probably so much less than the siamang because the only detection cue is only from visual detection. It does probably make a sound but I’m pretty sure that it’s not enough for finding this animal in the dense of tropical forest. Well, without a strong detection cue, a colugo may still stay as unpopular species, a non celebrity species until somebody find out more about its ecological function.
Tigers may be rare but they are the top predator. Tropical forests are degrading everyday. When you work in a tropical rainforest, you need to make a choice and your choice should not just base on your own scientific curiosity.
I was standing alone at the riverbank waiting for birds when a wild pig (Sus scrofa) coming down to the river to get a sip of drink. My movement surprised it and made it move away from me. Wild pigs certainly are more abundant in this forest but of course, seeing a colugo was much more rewarding for the day. At least for my camera curiosity………..