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Published: December 1st 2010
The day I’ve been dreading for weeks has finally arrived – it’s time to leave Sepilok. But although the last couple of months have passed far too quickly, the memories will stay with me forever: waking to the cawing of the hornbills hammering on our roof. Walking through the forest during a rainstorm, giant raindrops crushing onto the canopy, muddy streams forming around our ankles; carrying baskets filled to the brim with fruit on our backs deep into the jungle for the orang-utans; and then, later, sitting in a clearing, shadowy figures emerging from the twilight, some more hesitantly than others, but eventually all crouching around us, eating contentedly, lips smacking – gorgeous Miskam next to tiny, pixy-like Rosa, cheeky Toby, gentle Ganang. And ever so often a hand reaching out to us, touching our fingers or arms.
Memories of 3 grown orang-utans and 20 aggressive macaques (and a small tortoise...) holding us up in the kitchen, attempting to break into the attached store to steal bananas. Ankung cleaning his own enclosure. Little Kala, trying to escape from the jungle gym on his chubby short legs, looking like a toddler in an oversized fur-coat. Baby Gellison swinging happily in his
hammock on hearing our voices in the morning, little face framed by bushy hair rising from the depth of his suspended bedding, smiling. And during the last few days a new arrival – a 2month old elephant calf, separated from his mother due to unknown circumstances and found in a plantation; tiny body covered in coarse black hair, pink lips, his trunk still awkward and uncoordinated; the feeling of sadness and even anger lingering after I first saw him – another victim...
I will miss the jungle – the sounds, the mysterious darkness broken by columns of sun light flooding through the foliage creating magical crepuscular rays. I will miss the kind, warm hearted people I’ve met here – the other volunteers with whom I’ve shared so many wonderful experiences; the rangers – especially nature enthusiast Gabili, ever smiling James, and animal lover “Dr Doolittle” Jamius; Jue, Tootie, George and Lee who have looked after us for the past couple of months, cooked for us and made the Resthouse our home; our bosses Ellis and Sylivia; and of course the people of the forest, the orang-utans. And when I say people it’s not just the literal translation of the
word orang but it’s because most of the time I simply forgot that they were animals. Their personalities, their affection, their intelligence has taught me so much and has touched me in many ways. And it’s going to feel strange not to be around them anymore.
It’s time to say good-bye. I probably won’t be back, but then again you never know... So selamat tinggal, Sepilok, or maybe, just maybe, jumpa lagi.
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