Sunday, March 7, 2010

In the world of Gibbons

Gibbon WLS is at around 120kms from Kaziranga. From Kazi it takes around 2.5 hrs to reach this place. I highly recommend this place to have it as the must visit place if you plan a trip to Kazi. You will really get a very clear idea on how thick and fantastic forest was present in the North East before it was cleared for converting the land into tea gardens.

We left Wild Grass (resort where we stayed) at around 5.45 in the morning and we had Kunwar with us. That was a big relief for all of us as we had missed him in the last evening safari which had costed us a bit dearly. Kunwar is a great naturalist guide and an excellent driver as well. He has a really good knowledge about Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary as well. 

We stopped at Jorhat for a cup of 'Chai' and Gibbon WLS is quite near to Jorhat. Jorhat is a district place and it has a domestic airport. So to reach Kazi, one can plan to come to Jorhat via flight and then head to Kazi from here which is only couple of hours away. As we were near to the entrance of Gibbon WLS, Anush sighted Capped Langurs on the Acacia trees, grown along the border of a tea estate. There were around 3-4 of them. 

Capped Langurs are found in NE India, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. They are found in the subtropical or tropical fry forests. They look very charming because of their golden colored fur and black face. The glittering eyes look amazing. We spent around 30min with this group before we started towards the entrance of the wild life sanctuary. 

Gibbon WLS was earlier known as Hoollongapar Forest in the time of British. The Govt of Assam announced it as a Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary in 1997. In 2004 it was again renamed as Hoollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary. 

This wildlife sanctuary is home for India's only ape - Hoolock Gibbon. Apes don't have a tail. Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Orangutans are some of the other 'popular apes' :).  Hoolocks are smallest among all the apes. There are several species of Gibbons and Hoolock is one of them, which is found in India. There are two types of Hoolock Gibbons are found in India. Eastern Hoolock Gibbon in the forests of Arunachal and the Western Hoolock Gibbon in seven North Eastern states of India.   

Hoolocks rarely come on the forest floor. They are canopy dwellers. Most of their life they spend in the canopy. They need continuous stretch of forest canopy to move around in the jungle. The fragmentation of the forest and destruction of it for the tea estates along with the hunting has pushed this wonderful ape to get listed in the endangered species list. 

Gibbon WLS is a wonderful place to see this ape. In the dense forest undergrowth you will see lot more creatures than just the Gibbons at the top. It is a wonderful place to observe some amazing bird species as well. I got a glimpse of one of the splendid birds that was high in my wish list - Sultan Tit. 
I was thrilled when I saw this bird. Never in my dreams I had thought that I would see this here, though later I came to know that these are found here pretty often. 

Finding the Hoolocks is a great joy in itself. But without a proper guide you may end up days together bt with no sight. The best way to trace them is waiting till they call out. Their sound is very distinct and  they callout loud to and can be heard even kilometers away. They call to announce their territories and this is how all the groups in the jungle communicate as well. Normally they start calling at around 7 AM and till 11 AM. We hit our chance at around 9:30 AM when a guide from another group of photographers helped us to find the calling group. We ventured into the forest. 

There was no pathways. It was very thick undergrowth and we had to make our ways to reach the source of the call. The forest was just pristine. There were plenty of leeches on the floor and the soil was wet. very less sunlight reaches the forest floor here. My eyes were at the canopy and finally after a chase of around 15 minutes we get to see a glimpse of the Gibbon - a female with a child clinging to it. 

Gibbons are the only primates in which male and females have distinct colorations. Male is a dark black individual with prominent white eyebrow where as a female has more of a lighter colored fur. Their hands are very long, perfectly adapted to move around in the canopy. Another fantastic behavior is their hanging nature. 

We spent around one hour inside the thick vegetation trying to catch the glimpses of its behaviors. Amazing feel it was. The forest was thick and as the sun was going up it was getting humid and more humid under the canopy. We finally came back to reach one of the main pathways after about one and a half hours inside the forest.

As we were about to leave the place, Kunwar sighted something very interesting. It was a Civet and that too on a tree!! Civets are mainly nocturnal and rarely found during the day and when found normally on ground. On a tree is something very special for all of us. It was basking in the sun to get itself warmer. A rare treat to all of us and another feather in the cap for Kunwar's sighting ability.

At around 1:00PM we were back in our Jeep, on the way to Kaziranga. We had our lunch at Jorhat and headed back to Wild Grass after that. 

The next day was our final day at Kazi. Morning was our Elephant ride and we had decided to explore the Eastern zone after that as our final Safari. 

And after that.....we would be heading to a national park which has the most beautiful landscape in all the National parks of Assam - Nameri....