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  Field Notes From
Wild Gliders

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From Photographer and Author

Tim Laman

Unfiltered for authenticity, these accounts have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Chasing Borneo’s Gliders

Field Notes From Photographer and Author
Tim Laman
In all my years of working in Borneo, I had never seen a Wallace’s flying frog, the biggest and most spectacular of Borneo’s gliding frogs. They live high up in the canopy and only come down at night to breed in pig wallows. My luck finally changed when research, scouting, and the weather all came together. With the help of a local Malaysian naturalist, we scouted a location during the day. That evening we got a huge downpour, which fills the pig wallows with water and triggers the frogs to descend from the canopy to breed. We headed back to the site in the dark, and there it was: A huge Wallace’s flying frog sitting on a branch above the pig wallow. Overhead we heard crashing and the frogs’ calls as they landed on branches on the way down to breed. It was exciting to see something that very few people have seen before. To capture it on film was a real high point. It’s depressing to see the amount of rain forest devastation from logging and fires. I sometimes have to drive for hours through trashed forest just to get to a small area of pristine forest. I’ve been going to Borneo for more than ten years; it’s hard to face the reality of what we’ve lost. For two weeks I climbed 120 feet (37 meters) up a tree and hid in a blind in hopes of getting a shot of a giant flying squirrel coming out of its nesting hole. One night I got caught up there when a sudden storm blew in. I hastily packed up my equipment and lowered it down. It was pitch black. The tree was swaying. My heart pounded with each clap of thunder. And I was soaked. I was getting ready to rappel down a slippery rope into this black void. As gravity pulled me, I kept telling myself not to screw up. On the ground, my assistant beamed a bright spotlight up to see how I was doing. I looked down with the light from my headlamp and, as the rain poured past me, it seemed to converge toward the distant point of light, creating a bizarre, tunnel effect.

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