Buggin with Bridgey – April 2023

BIG in Sumatra!

A big Sumatran Orangutan female resting on a rock wall in the sunlight. She's looking upwards towards the sky.

Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii)

My second trip to this incredible island was definitely a mind-blowing experience!    There is soooooo much to see, and so many BIG things to see in Sumatra!  It really is a nature photographer’s dream and what any photographer would say is that it is a visually loaded environment.   With this Blog I’m going to feature some of the unusually BIG creatures from mammals to birds, insects, spiders and even flowers.  The anatomical pattern of being big seems to have become a repetitive trend in the evolution of species here.

Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) 

Obviously, the hero of the Sumatran jungle is the Sumatran Orangutans. They are just so beautiful. They are extremely calm an but extremely strong member of ‘The Great Apes’.  They may not be the largest mammal in Sumatra as they are competing with elephants, rhinos and tigers to name a few.  But they certainly are the biggest drawcard for tourists and photographers to Sumatra.

Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii)

Male Sumatran Orangutans grow to about 1.7 m (5.6 ft) tall and 90 kg (200 lb), while females are smaller, averaging 90 cm (3.0 ft) and 45 kg (99 lb). Compared to the Bornean species, Sumatran orangutans are thinner and have longer faces; their hair is longer with a paler red colour.

As of 2015 there were 7,000 Sumatran Orangutans and they are listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered.  The main cause of their reduced populations is due to extensive land clearing for Palm Oil and to a lesser extent coffee plantations.

Broad-handed Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa latipes)

The second largest bee in the world lives in Sumatra. The Broad-handed Carpenter Bee is so big it can be heard from several metres away as it flies its 4cm body towards you.  As it passes over your head it sounds like a drone has done an extremely close fly-by. I did manage to find a couple of slow individuals to photograph.  I’ve added a flying one to my wish-list for next time.

These bees are used commercially to help polonaise flowers of passion fruit trees. Also very interesting know that passionfruit plants have naturally synchronised their flowers with the Carpenter Bees foraging pattern…which suggests that they have an intrinsic relationship.

A big black Bee in Sumatra called a Broad-handed Carpenter Bee rests on the grass with its purple wings outstretched

Broad-handed Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa latipes)

Great Argus Pheasant (Argusianus argus)

The Great Argus pheasant is an absolutely incredible bird. One of the largest of all pheasants with a body similar size to a Peacock.  The male of this species sports an elongated tale of two and a bit metres. Stunning enough seeing it walking around…but when a he displays for a female it’s quite something to behold. In 2019 on my first visit to Sumatra we were extremely lucky to witness a male individual practicing his display for about 20 minutes. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  Check out the video below.

A Great Argus Pheasant sits on a log in the Sumatran Rainforest. Its tail is long and stretches out about 2 metres and is dappeled grey feathers.

Great Argus Pheasant (Argusianus argus)

Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum)

If you weren’t convinced already that Sumatra has a knack for BIG things…it also has the biggest flower!  Yep…this endemic plant of the ‘Emerald Island of Sumatra’ has the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, reaching over 3 m (10 ft) in height.  Due to its odour, like that of a rotting corpse, the Titan Arum is recognised as a carrion flower and is also referred to as a corpse flower.

A group of people is sitting next to the world's biggest flower the Titan Arum in Sumatra. The flower is larger than the people.

Our group from Wild Heart Yoga Tribe standing with the Titan Arum

Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas)

One very lucky night we were extremely fortunate to see an Atlas Moth flying under the full moon.  It was a mesmerising sight, like a fairy dancing in the moonlight!  I tracked it to its resting spot and was able to get a few shots.  The Atlas Moth do not eat once they have emerged from the cocoon, relying on fat storage for energy. The thing that always intrigues me is the design on the Atlas Moths is that it actually has an appearance of a snake head on the tips of its wings.  Go nature!

An Atlas Moth is one of the Worlds largest Moths. This BIG moth is about 25cm across, is gold with green spots and its top wings look like snake heads It lives in the Sumatran Jungle.

Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas)

Cicada (Purana sp.)

The biggest Cicada I’ve ever seen and coming from Australia that should be pretty impressive. This huge Cicada at roughly 8 cm long Cicada was having a lazy night and was very slow.  This shot has been produced by using in-camera focus stacking.  This is a really fantastic feature added into OM System Cameras.  You create a set of parameters as to the number of shots and focus depths.   This image is actually 8 images that the OM1 has combined in camera to create a larger depth of field.

An extreme closeup of a big green Cicada in Sumatra. Its big green eyes are looking directly at you.

Harvestmen (Gagrellinae)

Most Australian bathrooms at one time would’ve had a couple of daddy longlegs spiders living there. They are extremely long-legged tiny-bodied spider that is harmless but an old wives tale will have you believe that their venom can kill you but their fangs are too small to penetrate human skin. This is a myth only… but hey…us Australians have never let the truth get in the way of a good story!  This Order of Arachnids is called ‘Opiliones’ also known as harvestmen, harvesters, harvest spiders, or daddy longlegs, and contains upwards of 6.5 thousand species worldwide!  In Sumatra, these spiders are out on trees and leaves and in large numbers. They are around five times the size of the ones in a typical Australian bathroom, reaching a staggering 10cm across. In my research for this Blog, I have learned that some species in this Order can reach a ridiculous 13 Inches! The BIG wins out again in this environment.

Big Daddy Long Leg Spiders are called Harvestmen. Two BIG Harvestmen sittin gon a green leaf facing each other. Sumatra South East Asia.

Harvestmen (Gagrellinae)

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the BIG things in Sumatra.  I’m planning a Group Photography Expedition for 2024.  If you are interested you can read more and book here:

If you would like to take a deeper dive into some other Sumatran encounters you can check out my Let’s Go Buggin Sumatra Project on iNaturalist here.

Keen for a Let’s Go Buggin Tour? Use ‘blog’ as the coupon code for 15% discount on your tour booking here.

Next Blog in late May.

🦧 🧡 🦧


Bridgette uses a variety of Olympus OM SYSTEM Cameras and Lenses