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Published: August 21st 2007
Your hair looks worse than mine!
Merudu kindly trying to help with my bad hair day! (Photo from last day of placement)
Just spent the last 9 days working at Sepilok’s Indoor Nursery (Clinic). Working in the Indoor Nursery has been an experience that is both amazing and heart wrenching; seeing those little orangutans that have lost their mothers most probably to humans in sometime horrific circumstances peering out at you but still willing to reach out to you.
The day starts earlyish at 8am and there does seem to be an endless round of cleaning and making up bottles and feeding to be done but I guess that should be expected with clinic of youngsters and babies. But you don’t mind because ultimately you are working with young orangutans that really need you and that is why I came all this way.
One of the best parts and probably enjoyed by all of volunteers is bath time because it is always a good source of laughter but I think much of the time is was questionable who was actually taking the bath as we seemed to come out wetter than the orangutans we were bathing! Some of the Orangs are real water babies and will splash and swish around - Merudu has a spectacular spinning top action that gives you
a real soaking but others need a little more persuasion.
So how many volunteers does it take to bath a 1 year old baby? Well when the baby has the strength of a 5 year old and four limbs working against you then it is safe to say it will take more than one of you to persuade the Orangutan which most likely will be hanging crab-like over the bathing bowl with all 4 limbs holding onto the sides to dip a long toe in the water let alone a body! But then after all that fuss they will sit there with a look of innocence to what all that fuss was about!!!
Enrichment Program time is another enjoyable time for both the volunteers and the Orangutans. It is a time where the Orangutans get to learn and practice the skills they will need to make it to next stage of Rehabilitation and hopefully at some time in the future back to the jungle and wild where they belong. Watching them climb or try extract pieces of fruit hidden in various objects or just have a good old game of rough and tumble with there playmates is great
to watch. Watching the latter does make you realise why we are often recipients of hair pulls or bites, it is just part of their play which is all well and good when you have thick skins and plenty of hair but for us Naked Orangs not so funny.
Some Orangs are more confident than others and it is judgment to how much support you give but it is always good to see the less confident ones making progress albeit as simple just been willing to leave you to go a short distance along the ropes to watching them go further a field and navigate across the big drops to make it to the distant trees for the first time or venture off the ropes into those trees as some of them did for the first time during our time with them. Talk about proud parents.
Even during the course of the time on this placement it is amazing to see the progress that some of the little ones have made or the changes in them such as the amount of hair that little Ceria has gained over the time (the youngest one there and looked like a
plucked chicken when we first arrived).
But for us we often play the role of anxious parents as we watch whilst they tentatively experiment and progress with their climbing skills. Like everything there is a learning curve and sometimes they get it wrong and then it is for us to retrieve and offer some TLC before encouraging them to try again.
But some like to just do it for fun, like dropping in to the leech invested undergrowth below some of the ropes and then waiting there for us to come in a recover them. I swear Naru on the second time of doing this had the biggest smile on this face as pulled back his outstretched arms just as I lent forward to get him causing me to nearly fall flat on my face and say a close hello to the the leeches.
For me one of the highlights of the 9 days has been the wild dominant male was brought in to the clinic on our second day there. Badly injured before his arrival he needs to spend some time at the clinic until his wounds are fully recovered and he is ready for release
into a safe forest reserve. This male which I nick named Big Guy because I could not pronounce the name given to him really optimized the name Orangutan - ‘Man of the Forest’ because when you look into his eyes you see the forest reflected back at you and that is not just over sentiment. There is a real sense that he is the forest and the forest is him
I guess over the week spent with him encouraging him to eat and drink he really took up a place in my heart. I wish I could be around to see him returned to the forest but his recovery will not be completed before my placement is due to end. But looking into his eyes makes me want even more to protect the forests that are his home and hope that the orangutans that we are looking after here get the opportunity to know the forests and gain the wisdom that I saw in him. Sadly I think for many they may never truly gain that look but maybe if they we can get them to the stage that that they go back out into the forests and have
Meet the Soap Stars
With Tina O'Brien and Ryan Thomas from Coronation Street. But the Orangutans steal the show everytime!
a next generation then their children may one day have that look of forest in their eyes.
As well as looking after the Orangutans we have had some visits to the centre by VIPs and celebrities, starting with the American Ambassdor on one day and Coronation Street Stars
For me the highlight had to be meeting Tina O’Brien and Ryan Thomas (Sarah and Jason in Coronation Street) who were there for photo shoot for a magazine and to help promote the plight of Orangutans and the work that is taking place. Generally we carried on with our normal duties but we got opportunity to chat to them both about the volunteer work we are doing especially during the Orangutan Play/Enrichment time.
At one point watching Ryan looking at Rosalinda (young female Orangutan ) and Rosalinda looking back at him I am not sure who was more curious about each other but it is images like that that you take away form this placement and show you how much we have in common with each other.
Both Tina and Ryan are great and very easy to chat to and later on that night I went
for drinks at a local resort with them and the guys working with them for the magazine article. It was a really enjoyable and relaxed evening but I am not going to write any more details because as far as I am concerned the evening was private occasion.
The time spent on the indoor clinic has been really enjoyable experience and with the unexpected bonus of meeting a VIP and some celebs too.
Going to miss getting up in the morning and saying hey to little guys with the big doleful eyes and little grasping hands (and feet) and strangely I guess I am going to miss cleaning up poop every day but I am not going to miss loosing clumps of my hair as I clean or having anything remotely loose grabbed and pulled. And going to miss my Big Guy especially but next 9 days will be in the Outdoor Nursery so I expect there will be a whole new experience to come and another learning curve.
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