|Shortly after sunrise, the canopy exploded with sound, as the white-handed gibbons began their morning calls. Every gibbon family in the jungle seemed to be calling at once, a tremendous chorus, like the song of ten million birds. Within thirty minutes the gibbon chorus ended as the animals moved off to their favorite feeding places. The end of their singing did not bring quiet to the canopy, however.
Suddenly, one treetop was alive with great booming, whooping noises. When their calling stopped, similar noises began in a nearby tree. The sounds passed from tree to tree as the siamang families reaffirmed their territorial borders. With the siamangs’ calls, the day in the Sumatran jungle had officially begun.
|The siamang gibbons and the smaller white-handed gibbons were closely related species. Their habits and food preferences were similar. Yet both species survived in the Sumatran jungle because it was an incredibly rich environment. Each layer of the forest provided abundant food of many varieties. And so the jungle was home to many animals.
Very few humans lived in the jungle. The people preferred to settle at the jungle’s edge, building their small villages, called kampongs, in open areas where they could see the sky. Most of the people were farmers, raising goats and a few crops. And most rarely ventured into the jungle. They feared the strange, dim light and the unknown noises. They feared becoming lost where the sky was hidden. They feared tigers and poisonous snakes.
Only one man in the local kampong liked the jungle. Rami, like his neighbors, was a farmer, but he often left his fields for days at a time. Alone, he traveled deep into the jungle to search for wild cinnamon, a product much in demand among traders from the coast.
Rami cleared a tiny patch of jungle land near a stream and built a simple camp. His food came from the forest: fish from the stream, fruit from the trees, and wild herbs from the bushes. Each day he wandered through the hillsides in search of cinnamon. When he had enough to fill the basket strapped to his back, Rami returned to the kampong.
Rami enjoyed the extra income the cinnamon brought. But even more than that, he liked being by himself in the jungle. As he came to know the forest, he lost his fears. He moved quietly, almost becoming a part of the jungle. After a time, the secretive animals grew used to him and no longer fled at his approach. He could watch them as they went about their normal activities.