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Encountering a Troop of Siamang
Deep Forest Encounters

Taking a break from work to meet these incredible jungle creatures.

Paul Daley is a deep ecologist, photographer and filmmaker, who regularly leads expeditions into Sumatra and Borneo. Participants travel deep into equatorial rainforests to work with locals communities regenerating the landscape after palm oil plantations have been removed.

On this occasion, the group was in the majestic Leuser Ecosystem in North Sumatra; the last place on Earth where orangutan, elephant, rhino and tiger co-exist.

If the Amazon Rainforests are the Lungs of the Earth, this Place is its heart.
– Dr Ian Singleton

While bringing a tour group back to the forest restoration field cabin, where Paul had lived a year earlier while helping to regenerate the forest, they heard a troop of Siamangs so close that they couldn’t help abandoning their work day for an adventure in the forest.

This is Paul’s account:

“We heard them every morning at around 9:30am.

We were so often in work-mode that we wouldn’t take the opportunity to go and find them… then there was that one time; when we just had to go.

The call of the Siamang apes echoed through the primary forest often enough, but that day it was close enough to entice; taking a peek was non-negotiable.

It sounded like a scene from Star Wars, but not like the Ewoks; more like x-wing fighters shooting blasters… it’s the most incredible sound ever!

Not minding our bare feet getting muddy and bloody – we ran like kids chasing an ice cream van.

From the freshly-planted regenerating lands, which were once palm oil plantations now rapidly returning to abundance, we ran with pure abandon. Straight from the nursery – hot and muggy, tropical sun beaming down – we entered the big old Leuser Forest; home of the Sumatra tiger, orangutans (our red-haired cousins), and herds of elephants.

The Leusersian micro-climate is cooler, darker and denser, and smelling of pure earth – it felt incredible. Paying little attention to time or where exactly we were going, we ran honing in on their calls with each stride coming closer and closer. The bellowing booming morning song of the Black Siamang was finally in the trees somewhere nearby and above.

A few steps closer, gently going upon leaves too wet to crunch, we found them. The light beckoned, the perfect gap, a window into the canopy opened to a family of Siamang, jet black, swinging from the trees above us.

The larger male looked straight down at us; primate to primate, his huge neck pulsing. We shared a moment of silence as we stared at each other… and then that booming call bouncing through the jungle for kilometres like lasers reigning down on us in an attack from enemy fighters.

He stopped thundering for a moment to listen and smell, making decisions what to do next – then all of a sudden taking off away into the canopy. A mother with her young immediately followed, swinging from branch to branch, and in an instant, the rest of the troupe had joined them… and just like that, the forest returned to relative silence once again.

Now a new adventure begins.

Where exactly are we? And how do we find our way back to the field cabin?”

Paul Daley regularly runs tours to Sumatra and Borneo focused on bio-cultural immersion, forest restoration and permaculture. To find out more check out his Expeditions page at a lush forest.

Growing up in a tropical plant nursery, Paul learned the art of horticulture and botany from a young age. Following the path of plants fused in him a deep love for nature, ecosystem restoration, agro-forestry, permaculture and Earth connection.

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