Edit Blog Post
Published: August 30th 2007
Mico and Osma Shuffling
The inseparable duo go everywhere together. Moving around like ths can be quite difficult and we referred to is as shuffling
Well the final part of the placement has come to an end and what a fantastic way to end by time at Sepilok by working in the Outdoor Nursery
with the older (but not necessarily wiser!) Orangutans.
The Orangs are free to come and go but usually their stomachs rule and they turn up for feeding time or for the cheeky ones just before so they can try and mug you on route carrying the bananas to the feeding platform. We would lose all our bananas if we had not had the Security Guard Protection that came in the form of our rangers either Dusain or Jomius. One malay word by these guys is enough to stop the banana snatch and grab on the volunteers!
Now babies in the indoor nursery may be seriously cute and following on from last week working with them may seem a hard act to follow but the big guys really have developed their characters and made for a fun filled week! Mischievious (Ankong), The Quiet Watcher (Anne), The Class Bully (Eyos). But the Ahh factor goes to the inseparable friends Osama and Mico.
Talking of Osma, he may look like he has
just escaped from a concentration camp because he never puts on weight but let me assure you he eats bananas. He is one of the few Orangs that does get to eat at the platform if the big Orangutans make an appearance (which they did much of the time we were working). Maybe it is his small size but the Big Big Guys just seem to ignore him even if he does steal the bananas out of their hands (or even their mouths sometimes). A pretty brave (or really stupid) move. But he just sits there alongside them whilst the other younger orangutans look on scared and enviously from a distance whilst he munches the bananas. When not feeding on bananas then he is often found shuffling with Mico (a term given by Karen to the hugging shuffle of two Orangs).
Visits by the Bigger Ones to the platform usually meant more work for us the volunteers because this was usually a cue for the smaller Orangs to decide to misbehave and pay visits to the tourist walkways, something they should not do. Appart from the fact that you may recall from previous blogs Orangs do bite and are
The lanky adolescent Oscar with his Goatie
great bandits (they will releive you of any remotely interest belonging in your pocession) but the main reasons are the firstly the risk that any contact with visitors could pass on diseases to the populations of Orangs but secondly Insect Repellents and Sunscreen and Deodorants are extremely bad for Orangs(hence we have been the whole 2 months burning to a crisp, covered in mosquito bites and can be smelt from 1km away !!!!). Anyway during the big guys visits we often had to retrieve the straying Orangs often with hordes of vistors in hot pursuit with clicking cameras - I think they have a few great shots of my backside with a pair of great big orange arms grabing it and disappearing back to the jungle!!
Working the outdoor section has lead to a few adrenline moment thanks to Miskam. A couple of occassions have nearly resulted in a change of underwear! The first been when he decided to block our trail and exit. As an up and coming dominant male and is already pretty big you don't get into discussions with him - this is one occassion where we surrendered our bananas without protest and then ran as
High Tea with the British High Commisioner
I am not surprised Boyd McCleary didn't eat much sat next to us volunteers smelling like Orangs!
quick as our legs would allow (running is what we were told to do under these circumstances and running is exactly what we did - obviously well enough as I am writing this blog!).
Least the first encounter was safety in numbers and long as I was in the middle of the 3 of us volunteers then probably was safe but the second occassion I was on my own when I am both lead and last all in one. It all happened whilst I returned a straying Eyos (Miskam has a little bit of a love interest in Eyos - actually he has several love interests but at the time was paying Eyos extra attention). Whilst depositing Eyos on a tree I looked up after a movement above me to find Miskam 2ft above, peering very intently and swinging a big hairy arm in my direction. Still smelling of Eyos and with No Bananas I wasn't waiting to find out his next move and ran doing 0 to 60mph in less than a second - adrenline such a wonderful thing!
But most of the time it a relaxed experince. One special memory was from the end of the
day sat in silence with Jomius watching Oscar (I was also trying to sketch). Now Oscar is a rather handsome if somewhat lanky teenager of a Orang with a goatie beard. Oscar in return watched us with the same intensity. A memory that I will always remember and treasure for it's warm meditative quality.
Another moment to treasure and the big story of the final week has been the Big Guy
, the dominant male in the Clinic/Indoor Nursery who came in injured a few weeks ago has made a full recovery and returned to the wild
. On my last day working I accompanied him on 5 hour drive to a protected reserve (Tabin) where he was released back to the wild . Words still escape how I felt, it was the most amazing feeling and priviledge to see him climb a tree . It was a perfect end and I feel so lucky that I got to follow his story through to from the start to the end.
This week has been busy on the VIP visits too. The week started with a visit by the Malaysian Prime Ministers Wife. It was meant to be the Prime Ministers
himself but for some reason after all the scurrying around in preparation including sweeping the forest floor!!!! it was just his wife and she was late to arrive at that!
One person that was on time which probably because not Malaysian was the British High Commissioner - Boyd McCleary, who paid a visit. It is funny the Malaysians view of the British as we had to attend High Tea on the lawn of Sepilok
. There was us in our uniforms and wellies, smelling like the orangutans with the tourists passing by as we siped tea and ate egg sandwiches. And me - well I sat next to the High Commissioner trying to hold a conversation which is very difficult with camera flashes going off all around you. All in all a very surreal experience!!
But the wierdness of the day didn't end there - we were then to attend afternoon garden party at the President of Sandakan Municipal Council's house. We were let off work to get dressed up in our best but with 2 hours notice it was more a case of checking which clothing wasn't soaking in the bucket of handwashing that we are all been
avoid doing. In the end we made a reasonable presentable lot and enjoyed rather delicious food on the lawn of a very posh mansion overlooking the sea along with 150 or so other guests. Entertainment at the party was provided in the form of dancers and later in the form of our group been made to get up and dance with them.
Anyway the reason for all this is that there was Sandakan Day occuring the next day. Sandakan Day is a Memorial Service
for the 3000 plus POWs that died during the Death Marches from Sandakan in the War mainly Australians but there was 640 British victims and this year was the first time when Britain had taken a part in the memorial service. The volunteers all attended the early morning (7am) service in our uniforms minus wellies before returning to our duties with the Orangutans. It was a sober affair but glad I went along as it was something that I may not have done or realised was happening otherwise.
So that about concludes my blogs from Sepilok. Still struggling to beleive two months has past since I got on a plane from England and that
tommorrow I will be saying goodbye to friends made a Sepilok - big hairy goodbyes and that is just from the rangers!!!!
The experience has been amazing and there has been highs and lows and challenges and learning but today it was time to wear our faithful wellies for one last time before hanging them up (Ok standing them outside the Resthouse!) ready to pass the baton on to the next set of volunteers.
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