All creatures great and small

I see the number of comments my posts are attracting has shot up. However, the comments also make me think you are a strange lot. Here I am supposed to be writing about orangutans, I tell a nightmare story about spiders and I get a deluge of replies! If you want more horrible spider stories, stand by because here's another one. Thank you F. J. PECHIR for telling me the spider, an arachnophobic's worst nightmare, that I had in my bathroom, was in fact harmless. It is reassuring but I have to question the use of the word "little"? I could joke that I too would handle them with a telephone directory, but I totally accept your point that spiders are part of a healthy ecosystem. I just wish they weren't part of mine!

A couple of years ago, on an orangutan survey, I felt something on my arm. To my horror I discovered it was one of the long legged spiders shown in the photo below (can you identify it F.J. PECHIR?).

Long-legged spider

Now, in a perverse kind of way, I had always wanted to know what I would do if I had a big spider on me: would I freak out, throw a blue fit and probably get bitten? Or would I freeze? That experiment has now been conducted and I can tell you the instinctive reaction is to freeze. At least until your friendly, local field assistant flicks it off. I would like to be able to tell you I then cracked a joke and carried on just as Indiana Jones would do. That, however, is a club I am not a member of.

One of the sayings (gross generalisations?) you hear about spiders in Borneo is "if they climb walls or sit in webs, they are harmless. If they run on the ground or have burrows, they are bad". Photo number 2 is a bird-eating spider. You guessed it: it lives in a burrow, is incredibly aggressive and is huge. The first one I ever saw was picked up in the car headlights as it crossed a road! I do not know how many birds they catch but they are certainly partial to mice.

Bird-eating spider

Stag Beetle

The photo of the stag beetle is thrown into as a challenge to any palmetto bugs out there!

I also thought you might be interested to see some pictures of Camp Leakey, the original study site of Dr Galdikas. When you are in Camp Leakey you do get a sense of history; some of the orangutans she talks about in her autobiography "Reflections of Eden" are still there today.

The release of rehabilitated orangutans at Camp Leakey ceased in 1995 but many of the ex-captive orangutans, or their offspring, still wander in and out of Camp. Observing the ex-captive orangutan’s behaviour provides an insight into orangutan intelligence that couldn’t be gained from wild orangutans. The apparent ease with which they imitate human behaviour (washing laundry, opening locks on doors) confirms just how intelligent this great ape really is!

Ex-captive trying to work out the lock

Team work

Standing on shoulders

It's all about team work!

I know I promised I said I'd write more about orangutans soon. Tomorrow I'll make good on that promise, as this afternoon I have to go to the Orangutan Care Centre Quarantine. There will be a story soon!