Recording Trip to the World’s Oldest Rainforest!

After 13 Months roaming around the Malaysia peninsula (due to the pandemic I kept staying in only one country) I finally managed to make it to the Belum-Temenggor area.
This place holds one of the oldest rainforests on Earth (locals say the oldest). The age of the forest is around 130 million years old. It is home to a wide array of rich flora and fauna, endangered species like the Malayan tiger, the Indian elephant, the white-handed gibbon, the Malaysian sunbear, the tapir, and many hornbills.
What a blessing to be able to access this kind of area!

The more remote parts are accessible mainly by boat from Temenggor lake. This huge lake was created by humans from the building of a dam in the 70s. At this time, it inundated a big chunk of the forest while creating a big reservoir of water. You can see tree trunks still standing up and emerging from the lake. At one location on the lake, a Norwegian company was allowed to install fish farms in the water, there are many controversies about it as it introduces alien species in the lake. There are only a couple of indigenous villages (orang asli) around the whole area.

For this expedition, I contacted a small local company recently launched by 3 passionate colleagues. They organize tours for visitors and know the area very well, they are well knowledgeable about the forest and the species.

We decided to place 3 different drop rigs and made them record over 48h period of time. We chose locations which are near ‘salt licks’, these places are rich in essential minerals for the animals. Which makes them great spots to eavesdrop on animals. They usually come there in the darkness at night. We searched for trees to be able to hang our gears. Each drop rig was made of 3 elements: the recorder (Sony A10), the Power bank, and the external microphones (Lom mikrousi, or Clippy em272).

We went to 2 different locations that have salt licks. Both are a dry version made from the sand, with rain it becomes more of a kind of mud. The first location was a very large salt lick site, they say it is the mecca for elephants. We, therefore, placed 2 different rigs at this location, one near the elephant tracks, and another a little further near the lake. Once hung on trees (using some gaffer tapes), we then camouflaged the gear with some green leaves, hoping for them to stay invisible for the elephants, as they are known to be quite destructive with alien objects. Recorders were set and ready to record for 2 entire days.
We then moved a little North by boat to another salt lick. This second location was much smaller. Only a small salt lick underneath a tree. We thus placed the 3rd rig up in this same tree just above the salt lick. It might look like the perfect place to put a recorder. However contrary to the other rig did not camouflage it much with leaves which might be the fatal error we did that led to the following incident.

We left the reserve hoping they all endure the experience and that we can pick them up intact.

The first rig recorded all through the 48 hours with no problem, unfortunately, no special animal came to this site for the salt lick. So the recordings are duller than what I would have expected but still have some interesting moments.

The second rig did record only a few hours before stopping to record during the first night, for a reason I can’t explain. The battery was still working correctly when it was picked up back, and the memory still with enough space. So I have no clue of what happened exactly. Maybe the battery was not connected properly as it was not the usual battery I use but one borrowed from a friend.

The third (latest) rig: on the first night, this rig got discovered by an elephant while coming for the salt lick. He eventually messed around with the rig, he probably picked up the bag with its trunk and made it falls on the ground. Then from the recording, we can hear him eating the mud, taking the precious minerals he needs, blowing away what he does not need. All of this for about 30min, he then messed around again with the recorder to finally completely destroy it!
The Sony A10, along with the battery pack, and Lom Mikrousi microphones, all completely crushed.

To sum things up about these 3 drop rigs near salt lick. It was kind of an experiment, I never did before. It was thrilling to place these nearby the sight of so many animals, unfortunately, we did not secure and camouflage enough the rigs. And the resulting sound collected there is pretty wick compared to the efforts put in place.

Hopefully, I also did additional recordings, on other sites that I had inspected and spotted on the map. In the closeby forest, there is a road to access the dam, this road has no settlements around or any other attractions, and it crosses for few kilometers chunks of wild forest. It is easily accessible and made great spots to record some ambiences. I left rigs there for overnight recordings, I am so excited with some of the resulting recordings.

Overall insects are very loud and it is not easy to pick up more nuanced animal sounds, and sometimes interesting sounds only last a few seconds.

I’m happy with this expedition, it was fun, and instructive even though I lost 1 recorder, battery pack, and microphones.
…More exploration to come…

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