As night fell, we drove back out to the National Park border, to have dinner at a warung road-side truck stop. Rain had started to fall pretty hard, and we were all feeling pretty nervous because of the persistent landslide threat on the road. But as is often the case in the rainforest, weather conditions can change rapidly; pretty soon, the sky cleared back up and stars started to peak through the clouds. Relieved, we all piled back into the car, and drove once again into the dark forest.
A small-toothed palm civet (Arctogalidia trivirgata). When spotting nocturnal creatures, we generally stick to using red lights, as it doesn’t bother their night vision. Editing the resulting photos to black and white is a little more pleasing to the eyes.
Only a few meters past the national park border, we spotted this small-toothed palm civet, licking its chops after eating something in the fig tree. I would assume the figs, but as they’re omnivores that eat anything from lizards to insects to fruit, it’s hard to be sure.
The first time I came up to the Bukit Tapan road at night, it had been at the invitation of Debbie Martyr, a British tiger conservationist who has lived in Kerinci for more than twenty years. I had only been in the country for a few months, and it was an intoxicating experience. The heavy fog, the bitter black coffee from the warung where we had dinner while it rained, the wild animals we came across, and especially her stories about tigers. At the warung, the owner came up to her to report a recent tiger sighting – one had taken down a sambar deer not too far from there, and he wanted the Tiger Protection and Conservation Units to keep an eye out for anyone with bad motives. I was surprised when walking along the road with her how, if I started separating a little bit from the group as I peered into the forest, she would with some urgency remind me to stay close – even though Sumatran tigers rarely attack people, a solitary person is much more likely to fall victim. And while it’s incredibly rare to spot tigers on the road, it has happened on a few extraordinary occasions – I was even once so lucky.
Walking on the Bukit Tapan road at night is an enchanting, although sometimes spine-tingling, experience.
But, no tigers for us tonight. Throughout the evening, the rains came and went. Whenever it got to the point that we thought perhaps we should turn back, they would slow down and stop again. Despite this, we had tremendous success – besides another civet, a few nocturnal squirrels, and some other unidentifiable eye-shine, we saw not just one, not just two, but three different slow lorises! The very last one we saw was actually outside of the national park, in agroforest getting nearer to town, close to us with unobstructed views. Ella was of course excited, and it was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of Hendi’s daughter – it was the first time she had ever seen one! It was the perfect end to another wonderful night in the rainforest.
The Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) was kind to give us clear views, moving around freely undisturbed by our presence.