I was pleased to read that some of you have seen the PBS documentary “Kusasi from Orphan to King” which was shown on PBS television in the States, on the BBC in the UK and ABC in Australia (I think it may also have been on Animal Planet). I think it is a great film giving you a real insight into Kusasi’s world.
Kusasi -the old king of Camp Leakey
However, the second reason I like it is much more personnel; Kusasi has been a large figure throughout my time here. When I first visited Camp Leakey as a tourist, in 1996, Kusasi was the contender in waiting. By the time I came back in 2001 he was the undisputed king. He dominated Camp throughout 2003 but even by then Win was challenging him. In 2004 twice we had to operate on him up at Camp.
Kusasi during an operation at Camp Leakey, Tanjung Puting National Park
I remember eight of us struggling to lift him; his head alone felt as heavy as a sack of cement. 2005 was little better for him; he broke his arm and had to be moved to the Care Centre where he spent the next year. By the time he was moved back to Camp in 2006, he was very much “in retirement”.
Kusasi, after his time in the OCCQ, in 2006
Tom had taken over as king and is still the dominant male, he rarely comes into Camp though. Kusasi, for his part, is either in Camp or deep into the forest. He does not go anywhere where Tom might be. And that is probably very wise.
Kusasi -relaxing (photo by Hugh Sturrock)
I have seen Kusasi relaxing, even looking bored. I have seen him grab a person, which was frightening and I have seen him fighting other males, which was even more frightening. He gave Ashley and I the shock of our lives when he entered a small building where we sat. But I have also seen him grow old.
Kusasi - still a magnificent orangutan
These days he appears thin rather than massive as he did a few years ago and he has lost two of his canine teeth. It is probably in his best interests if his fighting days are over. That said, even if he is past his prime, in his prime he was unbeatable. And even now he remains magnificent.