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Gibbons and the Batek

This is my main work at present. We're documenting gibbon sounds and what the Batek think of them. In this photo I'm using the phone to record the song, but I try to use the Zoom as much as possible.

me and Batek man listening to gibbon song

Relatedly, we're also looking into the fruits that gibbons eat. Thus far, we've documented about 149 Batek species (still awaiting taxonomisation at the herbarium). Batek are really good with the technology of using a phone app, Cybertracker, to document what they see. Meanwhile, I follow along with camera and any other recorders needed.

walking in the forest

These (below and right) are my research teams. I try to have at least two generations of people working on the project (to facilitate knowledge transmission). The photo below was shot in September 2020, when Covid stopped all travel for months on end.

Batek team - men, women, and child

Here's the Zoom (together with a flashlight and what is the most useful thing you can bring to the field, Tiger Balm):

zoom digital recorder

I'm holding the camera of the professional filmmaker Loo Que Lin, who shot some video for us. I'm still wondering what to do with the footage she shot, but some clips are on my YouTube channel. Do tell me what you think! The channel is pretty moribund at present...

looking at camera

There were two teams on this trip: one worked for my student Nurul Iza Adrina, who completed her dissertation on "THE DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE OF SMALL APES IN THE GREATER TAMAN NEGARA PAHANG LANDSCAPE" (2021). We came together for fieldwork, climbed up a frighteningly steep slope, and set up camp on the high ridge in order to monitor gibbons. Once there, I refused to bathe for three days — too much hard work to reach a water source!

Batek team packing the boat, preparing to leave for the field


In 2005-2006, I was in Cambodia, doing general ethnography of villages surrounding Sambor Prey Kuk* monument site. I would like to go back, but haven't done so.

* The name is usually spelt Sambor Prei Kuk. "Prey" means "forest". I've replaced the /i/ with the /y/ in "Prey" on advice from Gérard Diffloth, who felt that it would give a better sense of the historical evolution of the word, in the context of Khmer language history.

Penan of Sarawak

From 2008 to 2010, I worked with the Penan as one small part of a Resettlement Action Plan. They were about to lose their lands to the Murum Dam. The project was called "Contemporary Ethnography of the Penan."

The photo on right shows Sati Uleng, my field assistant extraordinaire and adopted son, 2010.
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