This was the first time I saw an ape (no homo sapiens please) in real. And it was also the only Ape of the Indian Subcontinent. It was the Western Hoolock Gibbon, a small sized ape species, but extremely fast.
And I saw these magnificent creatures at the Hoolongopar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary near Jorhat in Assam, North East India. It took me a good three hours of trekking in the morning to see them.
The morning trek inside the forests was uneventful till we heard loud laughter and some kind of singing coming from ahead of us. My guide told me that was the gibbons singing. Apparently, the Hoolock Gibbons sing when they are happy.
Soon, the sound of the Gibbon song led us to the Hoolock Gibbons. The Hoolock Gibbon stay in families and are rooted to the upper most branches of the tallest trees. Unlike the other primates of India, they do not have a tail, but are blessed with highly flexible and lightning fast limbs.
These Gibbons love to hang by their limbs on these trees. These hanging positions actually looked quite graceful to me. And they love to jump across the branches in extremely quick movements.
These gibbons are diurnal and arboreal. My guide told me that these Hoolock Gibbons fed primarily on fruits, leaves and insects. During my sightings, I saw a couple of families. One of the families had 2 young ones and a juvenile. The juvenile seemed to be jumping from branch to branch and was posing for us.
The male Hoolock Gibbon has black fur and white eye brows while the female gibbon has brownish-grey fur that darkens near its chest.
My best moment during the Hoolock Gibbon sighting was when I saw a fight between 2 males. Apparently, one male had wandered into the territory of another Hoolock Gibbon family. The head male of this Gibbon family then proceeded to chase this outsider and thus began the super quick flying on across trees.
All I could see was black bodies whizzing from branch to branch. The lightning quick Gibbon movements are a sight to be treasured. Finally, the outsider was chased away.
The other interesting moment came when I saw a young Hoolock Gibbon suckling on its mother. Both mother and child were staring at us from above. After a long photo shoot, we left them alone to enjoy the antics of the other Gibbon families.
In total, I saw about 4 Hoolock Gibbon families and about 14-15 gibbons during that day in the Hoolongopar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary. That visit was total paisa vasool (value for money).
Here are some more pictures of the Hoolock Gibbon in various positions and performing different stunts.