Jumping excitedly out of our open-backed pick-up truck, we all stood, scanning the wall of dense growth bordering the roads that thread through the national park. We listened through the incessant rattle of cicadas and squawks of birds, trying to decipher the sound of the animal we were looking for. A strange echoing whooping sound could be herd faintly from the forest. Hearing that sound in the wild and not in a zoo back in England was amazing, but just hearing a gibbon was never really going to be enough!
Visiting Twycross zoo as a child, I remember being enraptured watching a juvenile gibbon playing on a toy slide. The youngster swung and slid with such seemingly obvious joy, it was enchanting to watch. On that same trip, I was bought a little cuddly toy gibbon that has followed me from house to house wherever I’ve lived. Having these memories meant that gibbons were at the top of my list of animals I wanted to see when visiting South East Asia earlier this year. Within a few days of leaving the UK and landing in Thailand, I journeyed to Khao Yai National Park, a few hours from Bangkok, with gibbons on the mind.
After hearing multiple gibbon calls from the road, our guide found a gap in the undergrowth and we entered the jungle. Following the sound of the gibbon calls, we walked through the forest, noisily crunching leaves and snapping twigs as we went, enjoying the shade given by the forest trees. Suddenly the calls emanated from directly above us. Everyone in the group anxiously looked upwards, scanning the layers of leaves that climbed upwards towards the sky. After a few moments, our guide beckoned us over and directed our gaze towards a small gap in the trees just ahead of us. There, crouching on a branch and hollering to the high heavens, was a wild gibbon.
The whooping gibbon was a sub-adult, and its two parents soon came into view as well. Young gibbons stay with their parents until they are around 9 years old and reach sexual maturity. Until then they stay as a tightknit family unit and this bond was obvious as we watched the youngster playing with its parents.
We followed them for around half an hour, watching as they wrestled up in the tree tops, until the youngster gave us one last good look, and they disappeared into the forest.
For more shots from the rainforests of Khao Yai, check out my travel gallery.