After Three Nights of Seeing Nothing, the Rainforest Comes Alive

Assistant Lead Researcher, Lara Rogers, hits the jackpot on her 4th nocturnal transect

I’ve been conducting my nocturnal mammal survey for 3 nights now – it’s been pretty slow going with only the odd sighting of mouse deer.  As lovely as they are 18 hours of walking around in the dark and only seeing 5 mouse deer just doesn’t get the excitement flowing. 

Last night I had the transect to save all transects.  I headed out around 5 o’clock to Auntie Nu’s transect and watched the sun go down.  Off we headed.  First I saw a mouse deer (I’m thinking here we go again!) but it wasn’t to be another mouse deer night.  Not two minutes later we came across something entirely different.  A Malay civet.  He was completely at ease with us being there and went about his usual nightly business.  I saw him catch 2 mice and promptly scoff them. 

We carry on down the transect and again only a few minutes later we see eyes shining out of the undergrowth….a banded linsang, another kind of civet.  It’s a beautiful civet with very distinctive markings. 

We didn’t see anything then for about an hour so I was starting to think we’d had all the luck we were going to get tonight.  Then, in the distance, I see these big round red glowing eyes…a tarsier.  This is the first time I’ve seen a tarsier and they’re as great as I imagined they would be.  It stayed for a while for us to watch it then sprung onto the next tree (3 m away) and it was off.  The glow from the eyes was shocking to me as well.  Most nocturnal mammals have a layer over their eyes called the Taptum luicidum – this produces what is called eyeshine.  Tarsiers lack the taptum luicidum so light does not reflect the eyeshine.  I’m pretty sure I’ll have no problem noticing that penetrating red glow again though. 

We moved off and then I spotted what I’ve really been looking for: two round red eyes high up in the canopy.  The Bornean slow loris.  I didn’t get a very good view of it because of the height (30+ meters) but I’d know that creeping movement anywhere.  I hope this is the first sighting of many so I can tell you more about these fascinating primates. 

To finish off a fantastic evening all round is one more mouse deer.  In Borneo there are 2 different types of mouse deer, the lesser and the greater…relatively difficult to tell apart as you have to go by the markings on the chest or the size.  There was however no discrepancy here…it was huge, I wasn’t sure what it was at first but managed to get an excellent look and defiantly the greater mouse deer.

So all in all a fantastic night.  I do hope all the rest continue to be so fruitful.  I’ll keep you posted. 

Lara

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