JENUT HOLIDAYS SDN BHD  (KPL 5390)
Taman Negara Tour Specialist
 
OBSERVING WILDLIFE


 
 
Boat journey along Taman Negara’s rivers offers good opportunities to see a limited range of wildlife. So, too, does exploration of caves. But by far the greatest variety of wildlife is to be found in the lowland rainforest; and there are a number of ways to increase your chances of wildlife sightings.   Careful observation of the features of whatever animal life you see should enable you to identify it from the literature available.
 

Along the Trails


 
 
Walking by day in the rain forest it is not easy to see wildlife. Most animal life is very shy, and if you are marching along in a noisy group, the wildlife will disappear before you catch even a glimpse of it! But moving slowly and quietly along the trail, alone or in a small group, your chances are much better, especially if you have the time to stop. Just sitting still in the forest for an hour at dusk or dawn you may well see more than might be encountered in several hours of walking. If you wear dull-coloured clothing, this serves as useful camouflage. Most birds and mammals are relatively inactive in the middle of the day, though snakes and lizards may be found basking in a patch of sunlight. Along the trails, look for signs of fruits on the ground, or listen for them falling. Then find a comfortable position from which to observe the tree crown. Many kinds of birds can be found in one fruiting tree, along with squirrels and perhaps monkeys.
 

 

 
 
Insect-eating birds often feed in mixed-species flocks passing through the forest in a noisy “bird wave”. Babblers (Timalidae family), warblers (Sylvidae family) and flycatchers often congregate in this way. Calls - or characteristic noises like the wood-pecker’s hammering on a dead trunk-are the best guide to the location of birds and mammals, and often valuable aids to identification. But given the density of foliage in the rain forest you will need lots of patience to get a clear view!

 

A Night in a Hide

It is well worth spending a night in one of Taman Negara’s wildlife observation hides, even if only to sample the rich variety of forest sounds. All except Cegar Anjing hide are built overlooking salt-licks, where plant-eating animals come to supplement their mineral intake.
  
On average you have about a 50% chance that there will be an animal visiting the lick during the night.
 
Yong Hide: Accessible by boat (Tembeling River, downstream) and a ten-minute walk; or a two-hour walk.
 
Blau Hide: Accesssible by boat (Tembeling River, downstream) and a ten-minute walk; or a 1 1/2-hour walk.
 
Chegar Anjing Hide: overlooking the old Park airstrip. Accessible by 20mins boat ride via Tahan River and a one-minute walk from riverbank; or a 90 minutes walk from Kuala Tahan but have to do waist-deep river crossing.
 
 

Chegar Anjing Hide
 
Tabing Hide: Accessible by boat (Tahan River) and a five- minute walk; or a 1 1/4-hour walk. Stream nearby for drinking water.
 
Kumbang Hide: Accessible by boat (Tembeling River, upstream) and a 45-minute walk; or a six-hour walk. Stream nearby for drinking water.
 
All of the hides are equipped with toilets, bunk beds and benches. It is important to approach the hides quietly, and to remain quiet throughout your stay. You are asked to do no cooking in or near the hides, and to bring all rubbish back for proper disposal at Kuala Tahan. Mattresses and pillows are not available in all hides, therefore you need to bring sleeping bag from Kuala Tahan.
 


Animal Observation at Tahan Hide

 
 
A strong flashlight is essential, and binocular is useful. Take along a tape recorder if you have one. If there are four or more people in the hide it should be possible to organise a roster system so someone is always on watch, yet all get a reasonable night’s sleep. One-hour watches seem to work best. If the watch cannot be maintained all night, try to last until 11 p.m., and then be up again at 6.30 a.m.
 


Saltlick at Night

 
 
When on watch, shine the flashlight around the salt-lick area for about ten seconds every eight or ten minutes. In between times, listen; tapirs in particular tend to be noisy as they move around. If an animal is present its eyes will reflect very brightly in the torch beam. Have a good look yourself, and then quietly wake others in the hide. Most animals stay at the salt-lick for several minutes at least, and often return later in the night. Animals are generally not disturbed by a steadily held light. It is worth leaving out food scraps below the hide. The tenggalung may come for the food soon after dark. Jungle rats often come into the hides during the night; so leave some food out if you wish to observe them, or hang all edibles well Out of reach if you would rather not!
 
The forest sounds are most intense during the half hour either side of dusk and dawn. Frogs, geckos, cicadas, crickets, long-horned grasshoppers, monkeys, gibbons, and many birds may contribute to the chorus. Animals most likely seen from the hides are barking deer in the evening and morning, and sambar deer and tapir after dark. Seladang, the wild cattle, occasionally appear at Kumbang.

 

Spotlighting


Grasshopper
Spider

 
The majority of rain forest mammals and insects are active at night rather than by day, and it is after dark that frogs, spiders, snails, crickets, owls, geckos and many other animals are “out and about”. A spotlighting walk along trails close to Kuala Tahan (e.g. the start of the Bukit Teresek trail) can be quite productive. Hold the flashlight close to your head or in front of your eyes and the reflections from the animals eyes will be bright. Spider’s eyes shine as tiny diamond-like dots; a slow loris in the trees reflects a fiery orange, while a mousedeer’s eyes produce a transluscent greenish glow.
 


Toad



Owl

Frogs and owls have eyes that reflect less strongly- but they can often be traced by their calls.
 
Paddling a boat along Sungai Tahan after dark can be very rewarding; look for frogs, owls, snakes, or perhaps a civet cat or a sambar deer.


Identifying Mammals

Wherever you encounter wildlife, it is satisfying to be able to identify what you see.
 
 

Along the rivers


Long-tailed macaque

 
Long-tailed macaque (Macacafascicularis, kera). Reddish-brown back, pale grey front, grey limbs, pale grey facial whiskers. Also found along river-valley trails. Call a squeak superimposed on a nasal grunt, k-r-r-uhl k-r-ruh!
 
Smooth otter (Lutraperspicillata, memerang besar) and a small-clawed otter (onyx cinerea, memerang kecil) Both are grey to brownish on the back, and paler underneath. The smooth otter from nose to tail is more than a metre long; the small-clawed otter is rarely more than 75 cm. Both otters may be seen along Tembeling River, but generally only the smaller species is seen in the tributaries.
 


Water Buffalo

 
In some parts of Tembeling River, water buffalo spend much of their day submerged in the muddy waters. 
 
 

From the trails


Wild boar (Sus scrofa, babi hutan). Uniform grey when not covered in mud from a wallow. Call a sharp, gruff bark. Usually in groups, often with young. When disturbed, pigs tend to run a short distance, then stop.
 
Banded leaf monkey (Presbytis melalophos, ceneka). Colour predominantly grey, paler on front and inside limbs; face, hands, feet and tail black. Call a hollow sound like empty tin cans rattling, or a sharp, rapid-fire chatter, high pitched (often heard at dusk from the hides).
 
Dusky leaf monkey (Preshytis obscura, cengkung). Grey, with conspicuous patches of white skin around the eyes (like spectacles) and around the mouth. Call is rather like the Malay name—a deep, very nasal ha-haw! hee-ha-hawha! Leaf monkeys have very long tails and are usually in groups of eight or more.
 
White-handed gibbon (Hylobates far, wak-wak). These can be heard early in the mornings-quavering wak! wak!wa-a-a-ak! calls as a warm-up, then a long wailing cry, ascending, then descending. This species comes in brunette or blonde-the body black or pale golden-brown. But the face is always black, surrounded by a circle of white fur; and the backs of the hands and feet are white. Gibbons have no tail. Sightings are most likely on Bukit Teresek.
 
Black giant squirrel (Ratufa bicolor, kerawak hitam). Body as big as a domestic cat’s. Tail 1 1/4 times body length, hanging down vertically when the squirrel is at rest. Predominant colour is black, but with off-white cheeks and underparts. Call a single grunt/squeak-nggip!—or a rapid series of these like a machine-gun burst, very loud.
 
Cream giant squirrel (Ratufa affinis, kerawak putih). Size and call very similar to black giant squirrel. Colour variable from very pale cream to honey- brown; but with paler underparts and dark muzzle and paws, Both giant squirrels are usually seen singly, high in the trees.
 
Other squirrels. Red-beffied and grey-bellied squirrels frequent the Park HQ area, the former with a black-and-white stripe along the flanks, the latter with no stripe. The black-banded squirrel has the stripe on the flanks and a grey belly, and in the evenings makes food-stealing raids on Kumbang Hide. The slender squirrel is tiny, and usually seen in twos and threes moving rapidly through the forest undergrowth. Prevost’s squirrel is large-more than a hand- span long—and handsomely marked, black with a chestnut belly and a broad white stripe along the flanks. The three-striped ground squirrel has black stripes along the back, and sometimes makes an appearance at dusk behind the Tahan Hide.

 

From the Hides

Barking deer (Muntiacus muntjac, kijang). Active in the early and late hours of the day. A little larger than a goat, rich reddish brown with dark markings on the head and white on the rump and under the tail. Very nervous and sensitive. Usually solitary. Males with short two-tined antlers. Call a loud, slightly hoarse, rasping roar—hraaauh!


Sambar deer

 
Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor, rusa). Nocturnal. The size of a small cow. Grey-brown colour, coarse furred. Males rarely seen, solitary, with large antlers in the breeding season. Females usually in loose herds with young. Call a sharp, high-pitched yelp, very loud.
 
Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus, cipan). Nocturnal. A large, heavy, thick- limbed animal with a very short tail, and a long nose flexible like a miniature elephant’s trunk. Black, with a broad white “saddle” and white ear-tips. The call is a mouse-like squeak—skeeeeeee!
 
Malay civet (Viverra tan galunga, musang tenggalung). Dog-size; beautifully patterned, grey with black spots and stripes, and strong white markings on the throat. Strongly attracted to chicken-curry left-overs.


Seladang near Tahan River 
 
Gaur (Bos gaurus, seladang). Native wild cattle. Very large, black or red-brown with off-white forehead and “stockings”. Once common at the hides; now rarely seen.

 

Mammals less often encountered....

Heard but not often seen are the large black gibbons or siamang, their calls combining  deep booming hoots with soprano yowls. The native wild dog (Cuon alpinus) is occasionally sighted along more remote trails or rivers. The critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) occurs in Taman Negara, but even the tracks are rarely encountered. The serow (wild goat / Capricornis sumatrensis) frequents limestone areas, as does the Malayan porcupine (Hystrix brachyura). The colugo (Kubong) or “flying lemur” (Cynocephalus varegatus), and flying squirrels are sometimes seen at dusk, emerging from hiding and gliding from tree-top to tree trunk. True fliers are the large flying foxes (Pteropus vampyrus) - giant fruit bats with a wingspan of 1.5 metres - sometimes seen over the forest in hundreds during the fruiting season, especially at dusk and dawn.
 


Kumbang Hide


On longer treks, such as that to Kumbang Hide, you may come across tracks and droppings of elephant (Elephas maximus), tracks of tiger (Panthera tigris), panther (Panthera pardus) and other cats, or claw marks of the Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) on tree trunks. Viable populations of all of these animals are maintained in Taman Negara, but actual sightings are uncommon.

Anyone interested for wildlife observation and photography tour can refer to our newly created Wildlife Photography Tour, the only photography tour available in Taman Negara.