Photo update 10: Camera traps and durian trees

Wow, and just like that, we’re already halfway into Year 2 of Project Pteropus! We’ve been quite busy on Tioman, what with faecal sampling and phenology monitoring now taking place on both east and west sides of the island. We also have some very good news to share: the project will be able to keep going for the rest of the year, as the Rufford Foundation have awarded us a small grant – which we are enormously grateful for!

Rufford logo

Meanwhile, it’s high time for another photo update. Back in late April and early May, we put some Reconyx camera traps and Bushnell video traps up in some flowering durian (Durio zibethinus) trees. This will help us study the durian’s pollination ecology better – what animals visit to feed on the flowers, and how each species in this complex network plays a role, and interacts with the others, to influence pollination success and fruit development. It’s also a start in answering the question of whether flying foxes help to pollinate durian trees. This is an extremely complicated bit of research, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without Dr. Sara Bumrungsri and his PhD student, Tuanjit Sritongchuay (Dr. Bumrungsri’s study discovered that the nectarivorous bat Eonycteris spelaea is a principal pollinator of durian in southern Thailand). They kindly entertained all of Sheema’s questions and requests, and were extremely generous hosts when Sheema visited their lab at Prince of Songkla University – where they taught her more about durian ecology and pollination studies.

Mak Long Hapsah and Pak Long Awang from Kampung Juara have generously allowed us to use their durian orchard for our study. As their trees are already quite old and tall – ranging between 15-25 metres high, we couldn’t climb them ourselves. So we enlisted the services of Saifful Pathil and Muhammad Nur Hafizi Abu Yazid (‘Fizie’ for short!), from Tree Climbers Malaysia. They are professional tree-climbers who are extremely well-trained in safe and effective climbing techniques, using high-quality climbing and safety equipment. So we knew right away that we were in good hands.

We were also joined by Kim McConkey and her sons Sanjay and Ryan, who not only helped us out but were also loads of fun to have around!

So for those of you who have never seen a durian tree, or maybe don’t know what durian flowers look like, or have no idea what professional tree-climbing is all about…here’s a little photo-journal documenting our work in the durian orchard! Also, follow the post all the way down for a little sneak peek of who’s been visiting the durian trees in the night…

Durian flower buds started appearing along the tree branches in late April, so we rushed in to put up some cameras...
Durian flower buds started appearing along the tree branches in late April, so we rushed in to put up some cameras…
Saifful and Fizie load up the 'Big Shot' - essentially a giant slingshot used to send the first line into the tree, which will then be used to send up and secure all the other climbing ropes and equipment
While our volunteer Sze Huei watches, Saifful and Fizie load up the ‘Big Shot’ – essentially a giant slingshot that’s used for sending the first line up into the tree, and this first line will then be used to send up and secure all the other climbing ropes and equipment
Using the Big Shot isn't easy! You have to target the right branch and get your aim and velocity just right in order to send the line where you want it to go. Sometimes it takes a few tries before you get the right branch...
Using the Big Shot isn’t easy! You have to target the right branch and get your aim and velocity just right in order to send the line where you want it to go. Sometimes it takes a few tries before you get the right branch…
Once everything is in place and secured, Fizie makes the long climb all the way up the 90-year-old, 100-foot giant of the durian orchard
And once everything is in place and secured, Fizie makes the long climb all the way up the 90-year-old, 100-foot giant denizen of the orchard
...it really is a long way up!
…it really is a long way up!
...aaand he made it!!! Can you spot where Fizie is in the giant durian tree??
…aaand he made it!!! Can you spot where Fizie is in the giant durian tree??
Securing and checking the cameras...
Securing and checking the cameras…
Putting camera/video traps up in durian trees require you to be nimble and flexible...
Putting camera/video traps up in durian trees requires you to be nimble and flexible…
...and also quite a bit of fearless dexterity!
…and you also need quite a bit of fearless dexterity!
When we came back again in early May, the durian trees were adorned with delicate light yellow flowers in bloom
When we came back again in early May, the durian trees were adorned with delicate light yellow blooms. They stay open for just one night and then drop naturally from the tree around or just after midnight
Beautiful bunches of blooming durian flowers
Beautiful bunches of durian flowers in full bloom. These night-blooming flowers were already open and secreting nectar by 4pm. Fun fact: durian nectar tastes a little bit like sweet buttery popcorn!
Close-up of a durian flower. The yellow stem in the centre is the stigma, and the surrounding stems of lighter colours are the anthers, which produce pollen
Close-up of a durian flower. The yellow stem in the centre is the stigma, and the many surrounding stems of lighter colour are the anthers, which produce pollen
Meanwhile, on the ground, Kim's boys Sanjay and Ryan help us collect fallen durian flowers
Meanwhile, on the ground, Kim’s boys Sanjay and Ryan help us collect fallen durian flowers
Sanjay made an interesting and important observation: holes nibbled into the bases of many durian flowers, made by squirrels who drink the nectar without performing any pollination!
Sanjay made an interesting and important observation: holes nibbled into the bases of many durian flowers, made by squirrels who drink the nectar without performing any pollination!
The reward for all that hard work! A flying fox hangs out on a flowering branch while snacking on sweet durian nectar
The reward for all that hard work! A flying fox hangs out on a flowering branch while snacking on sweet durian nectar

Stay tuned for more exciting updates, photos and even videos from Project Pteropus!

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