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
THERE ARE NO ORANGUTANS IN BRUNEI’S FORESTS !
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 !
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.