What do we do with banana trees?

Where did last week go? I spent most of it in Tanjung Puting National Park, having lots of fun and adventures, and only got back to the office on Friday. We are still experiencing lots of power cuts. On Saturday, we had a five hour one, 8 am to 1 pm, which put paid to much serious work. So here I am, Sunday night, attempting to tell you how I spent my week, obviously, without much internet!I went first to Buluh Besar Guard Post in the middle of the Park, and from there, to Pondok Ambung and Camp Leakey, where I met up with Brigitta. However, this all deserves its own post (to come soon), so I will just cut to today. My back garden has been as over-productive as usual and the latest banana tree, to try to outgrow the electrical wire to my water-pump, needed felling. What do we do with banana trees? Give them to Montana.


Montana with his banana tree.

I went to the Orangutan Care Centre & Quarantine with a group of visiting researchers and found the big guy looking unusually bored. He was laid flat out with his massive head resting on his two fists. He didn’t even turn his head as we approached. Once the banana tree was near enough to be on offer, however, he sprang into action in a way that reminded me – yet again – never get too close: He’s quick! The stalk was inside in seconds, and then the leaves. And Montana was one happy orangutan.

Montana July 08

Less pleased were the adolescents occupying the next-door enclosure, who wouldn’t normally dare so much as whimper at the adjacent cheek-padded Montana. Today, though, they were happy to demand attention from the visitors. We gave them extra leaves and they were delighted. I even managed to get a smile from one of them (unlike young chimpanzees that will literally giggle if tickled, orangutans seldom express pleasure), getting a full toothy grin was reward in itself.

Stephen with the adolescents

Me with the adolescents.

Thanks for your comments, Sheryl and Annie, about the paper (which we contributed to) mentioned in my last post, “Distribution and conservation status of the orangutan (Pongo spp.) on Borneo and Sumatra: How many remain?”. I agree, it is important to think positively and I don’t believe orangutans will become extinct. I think the programmes that we, and our partners, are working on in Central Kalimantan, will ensure this never occurs.