Fearless (From The Archive)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 9:52AM
[chuck] in Science, West Kalimantan, herbarium specimens

"Any way that you could climb up there and get a couple of branches with flowers?"

Villagers that have grown up in the forest can be creative and fearless tree climbers. And this is free-climbing, i.e. with no ropes, belts, or back-ups. A quick scan of the Dipterocarpus tree revealed that it was covered with flowers.  And this species is a mast fruiter that only flowers and fruits every couple of years.  So I posed the question to my local assistant.  The image below shows him sizing up the tree and making a quick decision about the costs (to him) and the benefits (to me) of climbing it.

He decided to try it.  The image below shows him about 15 m up the tree, carefully climbing the lianas and dangling a long collecting pole that he has tied around his waist. Goes without saying, but these guys are fearless. [NOTE: The climb was a complete success and we got some beautiful specimens of Dipterocarpus oblongifolius Blume. The climber is a Dayak; the tree is one of several conspecifics growing in lowland forest in the Sanggau district of West Kalimantan].

Full disclosure: The actual question, posed in my halting Bahasa, was undoubtedly simply "bisa?" (Can you do it?).

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