King of the swingers

You have to be pretty agile and adept in the trees to move around confidently at such a great height. This baby white-handed gibbon is about two and starting to explore, though his parents are close by. He’ll need their guidance and protection for several more years and the whole family are completely committed to each other. Males and females can either be blonde or dark, just like us. Apes are larger than monkeys and don’t need a tail. They’ve found a new way of getting around. Generally, we take for granted the flexibility of our wrist and shoulder joints. Maybe to us it seems like a rather an insignificant ability, as we rely on our legs to get about, but to gibbons it isn’t. Too big to run around on top of most branches, they usually use their arms to swing underneath and they’ve taken that flexibility to extremes. This ability to completely rotate the shoulder joint allows them to swing from branch to branch. Perhaps we evolved our shoulder joints for similar reasons, but eventually it‘s what made it possible for our forebears to throw over-arm and hunt with a spear. Gibbons have incredibly strong arms and use their hands as hooks. And just like gymnasts, they use their body weight to swing. Because they hang suspended underneath the branches, they have a far more vertical, straighter posture than most monkeys, which means if they want to travel on top of the branches they stand upright balancing like a tight-rope artist. It‘s likely that this was a crucial stage in the process which eventually led us to walk on two legs. After the acrobatics, a refreshing drink of water in a tree-hollow is welcome. But if you’ve got a real thirst you’ve got to go down to the river. Hands make a perfect cup to scoop up water - a technique this baby is learning too. Before long, they’re in full chorus again, reconfirming their marriage vows.

Credits

Role Contributor
PresenterCharlotte UHLENBROEK
PresenterBernard WALTON
DirectorBernard WALTON
ProducerPhil HURRELL
ProducerBernard WALTON
Camera OperatorMartyn COLBECK
Camera OperatorRichard GANNICLIFFT
Camera OperatorMartin SAUNDERS
Camera OperatorWilliam WALLAUER
Camera OperatorJohn WATERS

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