One of the rules of working around orangutans is to never get within arm’s reach of them. On Saturday, in the middle of an interview with a journalist, I was horrified to find Kusasi less than 2m away and coming straight at us. If I was horrified, I dread to think what the journalist thought! Her tape contains the memorable line “Time to GO!”
The problem was we were watching Unyuk and her baby who were joined by Uning and Ukraine. When we arrived at the feeding station Unyuk, who has a reputation for being naughty, was sitting peacefully with Mr Otter. They looked like two neighbours having a chat. Mr Een then walked up and Unyuk went over to say hello to him. Shortly afterwards, Uning and Ukraine swung in. Uning is Unyuk’s daughter so we were looking at three generations of their family: Unyuk the mother and grandmother; Uning the daughter and Ukraine the grandchild. It was a captivating sight.
Rather too captivating: never forget what is going on behind you! Een’s eyes went wide and he slide off to the side. I turned around and there was Kusasi. All I could see was him! I won’t say he was going for us, but I will say he was moving in a straight line for Uning and we were in the way. Look at the photos: the vine Uning is holding onto at the start is the very same one Kusasi is on: she had the sense to get out of his reach.
I grabbed the microphone case and pushed the journalist with my other hand. Kusasi passed behind us stopping in the spot recently vacated by Uning. Once heart-rate and blood pressure had returned to normal we got some photos. Just look at the size of his arm!
That evening, I left the journalist to spend a night on her boat in the park, and I travelled back to Pangkalan Bun. The sunset was spectacular. The sky was every shade of red which was reflected off the still black-water of the Sekonyer River. It felt as though we were speeding through fire.
Back at the office, I saw the education team had returned from their field trip. From the state of the car it looked like they had had their own adventures! After all of which, I would like to say thank you to Julie (Art for Gorillas) and Adam Hardy for their sympathetic comments. Adam, I agree with you: there is no comparison between an 8mb broadband internet connection and a fast-moving 120 kg male orangutan. I’ll stop complaining.