First encounter with an Orangutan in Sepilok
Up ahead there was some commotion. About eight tourists were all staring up at the high branches to my left. I stopped, and as usual could see nothing, I never do when everybody else can. A few steps forward and another cracking of branches. I peered in the direction of the sound through the green and emerald colors.
Then, as if a part of the background, an elongated dark red hairy arm reached out to grasp a branch.
A shadow followed as another tree branch snapped. There was another rustling. Then silence before more cracking and a darkened human like face appeared from the trees above.
No wonder the first explorers thought Orangutans were people living in the trees.
The Malay meaning of Orang utan is literally “man of the woods,” or “forest man”
From a distance it was a persons face. A human like arm, a short body and with her … a little baby.
Mother and baby Orangutan at Sepilok
The mother and her baby were making their way to the feeding area ahead of time. And it so happens the walkway is near a short cut to the area. Like any toddler, this one was impatient. He clambered up another tree to peer down at us. Then, taking more interest in swinging from branch to branch, tried to make his own way towards the feeding platform.
This didn’t go down to well with his mother as she shook a tall thin tree trunk nearby. The infant tried to scamper across the upper branches before crashing down several levels and causing a few tourists to jump back.
Silence followed, as the mother and child held their heads upwards as if a secret sound had been made. The two darted under the walkway and into the undergrowth.
Wait, who’s the primate on display here?
I was uplifted with the mother & baby duo. Touristy or not, there is something very moving about being this close to a primate like this.
I moved on in hope that Sepilok rehabilitation center was about to surprise me. Unfortunately, my feet ground to a halt as the viewing platform appeared. Instead of seeing Orangutans I was confronted with a throng of camera wielding tourists in mainly beige jungle fatigues.
I looked down, and to my relief I was wearing blue, and black today. Surely I was different …
Thankfully the majority of human primates were all queuing up on the opposite side where there were two keepers sitting with a bucket of fruit. They held up signs, not that any of us obeyed them. The look on the keepers face tells it all.
Battle for the planet of the apes
Tourist frenzy was about to begin.
A clattering of camera shutters sounded like a swarm of electronic locusts.
Husbands with giant lenses lost grip of their off-spring as all sense was focused on semi-jungle warfare. Surely these would be the most original photos in the world?!
Distraught infants, disgruntled spouses, and camera-less bystanders felt the wrath of many a “photographers” pointed elbow stance as gasps of “Yea, just a minute …” became synonymous with the task at hand.
The only let up came from brief respites of facial sweat removal from the scorching sun beating down on our very own primate viewing platform.
I am an Alpha male …
Where was I during all this? Equally busy elbowing a portly German primate out-of-the-way as he too was blocking my way. It was that, or subject myself to being forced to the rear of our own congress.
The orangutans, seated comfortably on their raised viewing platform, and eating a bevy of healthy snacks for free; looked on at us in this the first of their twice daily showing of “the human soap opera.”
Up close and face to face with the Queen of the jungle, and yes Ma’am you may rip the arms of those Korean tourists