ABOVE: This extraordinarily prolific  female Ficus punctata liana  next to the Belalong Canopy Walkway (BCW) produces a continuous supply of ripe figs for about six months each year.  Observations  show that the main fig consumers are the local gibbon family which in 2017 comprised 3 individuals, Kate, (the large female above), her partner William and their baby Wak Wak.

All photos by Hans Hazebroek

Ficus punctata and Prevosts (2)
The second most common visitor is Prevost’s Squirrel  which is a locally common resident at the Belalong Canopy Walkway but compared with the amount of fruit available the squirrels eat only a tiny amount. Note that the figs are all stages of size and ripeness  (ripe figs are purple black) providing a “steady state ” food”  supply over a period of many months.
Ficus punctata+macaque
The third most common visitors are Long-tailed Macaques, but they are only occasional visitors as they normally live next to the river in the Temburong River valley below.
Bornean Striped Palm Civets  Arctogalidia stigmatica .jpg
A family of Bornean Striped Palm Civets Arctogalidia stigmatica  live next to the Belalong Canopy Walkway  and almost certainly also feed on the  ripe F. punctata figs at night.
Binturong at Temburong IMG_6585 - Copy - Copy.jpg
Binturongs Arctictis binturong  are also seen occasionally feeding on the Ficus punctata figs next to the BCW. This individual was photographed by Hanyrol H. Ahmad Sah on the hill behind the Ulu Ulu Resort not far from the Belalong Canopy Walkway.
Ficus punctata and Kate 11.jpg
Ficus punctata is a common forest liana throughout the forests of Borneo but nowhere else (apart from Brunei ) do you see such a massive  display of figs both ripe and unripe remaining  uneaten. What is the explanation ?


Orangutans  and gibbons both prefer to eat ripe fruit. During lean seasons when ripe fruit is scarce, gibbons eat leaves, whilst orangutans eat  leaves, bark and unripe fruit.  Gibbons cannot digest unripe Ficus punctata figs whilst orangutans are happy to eat unripe F. punctata full of latex.

Thus orangutans out compete gibbons for  easily accessible  large patches of fruit in areas where  both species at present. If orangutans were present in Brunei  ALL the figs shown in the photo above would already have been eaten long before the gibbons had any chance to eat the ripe ones !

Without the presence of orangutans, gibbons suffer virtually no competition for ripe primate Ficus punctata  figs in their territory. There is no competition from other gibbons because even when there is a surplus  of ripe figs the resident gibbon family will still fiercely defend their territory from other gibbon families in the area- leaving the surplus fruit to go to waste !

Wallace (1865)COPY  Orangutan attacked by Dayaks Wallace .jpg

Illustration from Wallace (1865) The Malay Archipelago. Orangutans disappeared  from coastal west Borneo including Brunei relatively recently. Wallace collected 17 orangutans from peat swamp forest near Kuching in 1855 but when John Whitehead spent 2 years (1887-1888) exploring Brunei, Limbang (N. Sarawak)  and west Sabah he did not see a single orangutan.