Animals,  Fauna,  Nature,  Travelogues

Walk through the woods: Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary

It was a misty morning when we started for Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary. It was strange to walk with an armed forest guard for company. We had hoped that by the time we started walking through the woods, the rays of the sun would shine through and wake the gibbons into activity. However, the Sun God decided to be lazier than we anticipated, and we were awestruck by the eerie silences of the dense jungle. 

As we walked around 4 km through the dense foliage, the dry leaves crackling under our feet and the occasional rustle of the giant Himalayan squirrels were the only sign of activity. It was too dark to get good pictures. In the quiet of the forest, we gently made our way through the webs of the giant wood spiders, admiring the ferns, wild mushrooms, vines and creepers, and avoiding the leeches. 

Python??? No… just a branch simulating a python  
Orange bellied Himalayan squirrel hanging upside down

But the best moment was yet to come. When a group of cicadas in their fervour unleashed their instrumentation. It was like a loud orchestra playing in the forest demolishing the silences. Whoever would have imagined that an 8 inch long insect could be so loud! And then of course, there were the metallic calls of a flock of racquet-tailed drongos and the repeated knocks of a woodpecker. Blue butterflies on the forest floor made us suddenly stop in our tracks.

Blue butterflies on our path: It is a male Khasi Dark Archduke butterfly (Lexias dirtea khasiana)
Mushrooms in the wild
Elephant apple- Said to be a favourite of elephants . And the special footwear to prevent leech bites
Giant wood spider (female)
Ferns on the forest floor
Earthworm mounds- these are essentially excreted by the earthworms and can serve as fertilizer for your plants

The walk was ruined by a group of boisterous tourists who spoke loudly and heckled the birds, and worse, spoke on their mobiles as if their voices would reach the recipient without any need for the instrument. Wish people would learn to respect the silences of the forests.

I had almost given up on the gibbons, but we did spot a family of Hoolock gibbons towards the end of the walk. The hoolock gibbons are India’s only apes. The rest are either langurs or monkeys. The sanctuary is home to: the western hoolock gibbon, the Bengal slow loris, the stump-tailed macaque, the northern pig-tailed macaque, the eastern Assamese macaque, the rhesus macaque and the capped langur.

The western hoolock gibbon (male). The male is usually black in colour with prominent white brows
The hoolock gibbon is found where there is contiguous canopy, broad-leaved, wet evergreen and semi-evergreen forests

Western hoolock gibbon (female): White rings around their eyes and mouths give their faces a mask-like appearance.
Western hoolock gibbon (female): They swing from tree to tree in a mode of locomotion known as brachiation, and can brachiate at speeds upto 55 km/hr, covering upto six meters in just one swing!

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