Chapter One: Sumatra

Dawn in the jungle. On the forest floor the heavy blackness of the night was replaced by the soft greenish light of day. The bright tropical sun was hidden by the dense canopy of vegetation. Only on the streams and the rocky mountain tops where no trees grew was the sky visible. Everywhere else the light at ground level was dim and cool.

A dark-striped tiger returned to its den, lay down and began licking a front paw. During the night the tiger had hunted successfully, surprising a sleeping wild hog. Now it would doze, perhaps waking during the day for a drink and a swim in the stream. But for the most part it was a night creature, and the jungle now belonged to the creatures of the day.

At the edge of the stream butterflies appeared by the thousands. Pheasants awakened and patrolled the forest floor, scratching about for insects and seeds. Elephants began to feed, browsing on the trees and bushes for the many pounds of vegetation each animal needed every day. All the other large herbivores of the jungle--the wild hogs, the deer, the tapirs, and the rhinos--also were animals of the daylight. They too awakened and began the essential business of finding food.

Thirty feet above the ground, in the jungle’s middle layer, the night shift also gave way to the day. A slow loris blinked its large round eyes and began to settle itself into a comfortable position for sleeping. Unlike most primates, the loris was a nocturnal creature, and even the dim daylight of the jungle bothered the animal’s eyes. A clouded leopard, a small cat with beautiful markings, had spent the night prowling the trees and bushes of the middle layer in search of sleeping birds and rodents. With the approach of day, this predator returned to ground level to sleep.

The biggest change in the middle layer at dawn was an increase in noise. The night animals were generally quiet, either predators trying to sneak up on unwary prey, or small and defenseless creatures trying to avoid notice. Now, at dawn, the nervous, silent mice were replaced by the larger, exuberant squirrels. The squirrels chattered and bickered incessantly, and chased one another wildly through the trees, with much noisy shaking of branches. Birds of a hundred different species awakened and opened their beaks to attract mates or announce their ownership of nesting territories.

Above the middle layer, day began too in the top level of the forest. The jungle canopy, formed by the interlocking branches and leaves of trees more than one hundred feet tall, was the reason for the dimness of the light on the forest floor. And the dense vegetation of the topmost jungle layer provided homes for many animals active by day.

Naturally, some species of birds preferred the canopy to the middle layer of the jungle. But there were reptiles too, climbing lizards that lived their whole lives in the treetops. Even more surprising, the canopy was home to frogs and insects. They lived in miniature, sky-high swamps created by epiphytes, plants that grew on the tall trees but took their nourishment directly from the surrounding jungle air.

But the jungle canopy at dawn really belonged to the primates. At sunup, vast troops of gray leaf monkeys awakened and scampered through the branches. Solitary, slow-moving red orangutans opened their eyes and stretched lazily. Only the young animals seemed eager to vacate their leafy nests. The older, more experienced orangs seemed to know that the jungle held plenty of food even for late sleepers.