Searching for monkeys in Tangkoko Nature Reserve, North Sulawesi , Indonesia

September 17-23, 2006




With neatly groomed punk hairdos, a group of one hundred Crested Black Macaques romped, foraged, and bickered on the forest floor at Tangkoko, oblivious to our presence until Mark got just a little too close. The fellow gave his first warning--a big yawn--and when that didn't work, barred his teeth. But we stood our ground, and the dispute ended in seconds. He went back to foraging, we continued clicking away, fascinated by the ever-changing expressions of our distant cousins. A team of researchers has been following this group, known as "Rambo I", every day for the last year and a half, recording their locations and vocalizations, which keep their strict hierarchy intact. Crested Black Macaques are found only in North Sulawesi, and Tangkoko has the only viable population remaining of this endangered species. The total population (about 6,000) could be extinct in the next 10 years, if habitat fragmentation and destruction, as well as hunting, continue. After an hour or so, the alpha male sauntered by, his muscles bulging, equipment-laden researcher at his side; one sharp call from him and the entire group moved on.





Boinnnng, boinng, boing...Tarsiers are jumping from one thin branch to the next, catching insects all around us!

We hiked through Tangkoko Nature Reserve just as the sun was setting, following our ranger-guide through the damp tropical forest to a huge ficus tree, where we peered into a dark hollow and saw a family of tarsiers, staring calmly at us with huge red eyes, even as we pestered them with our bright flash. Finally, one Tarsier bounded out of the protected hollow, leaping to a thin tree trunk just a few feet away. They got more and more active as the light dimmed, one and then two together, jumping from one branch to another, propelled by their huge hind legs, then flying back into the tree. After a hour watching their playful antics, they returned to their home tree, and slipped out by a "back door" to begin their nighttime hunt. We laughed with delight as they leapt from one narrow tree trunk to another, landing on the forest floor for just a moment, then twirling up, now airborne, chasing crickets through the air. Their soft funnel-like ears swiveled this way and that, one ear following a sound to the right, the other to the left, listening for their prey (small insects, rodents, or small birds in flight).

These are the smallest (and cutest!) primates on earth, now found only here, in North Sulawesi, in the Philippines, and a few still remain on the island of Sumatra. Soon they bounded out of sight, enveloped by the evening shadows. We walked the trail to our guesthouse by flashlight, knowing they were all around us, occasionally hearing their high-pitched squeals.






All that remains of an enormous tree is the web of a strangler fig branches that caused its demise.

Liza and ranger; village scenes across the road from Tangkoko.


Ambon (plane) ► Manado, Sulawesi (jeep) ► Lembeh (jeep) ► Tangkoko (jeep) ► Manado