The last 9 days have actually been the best 9 days of my entire life. I don't think anything can ever top them. My group (me, Slina and Annabel) were at the outdoor nursery for 8am, where we were introduced to the rangers - Dusain (aka the boss man) Addie and Wilson then the Orang-Utans. The Orang-Utans in the outdoor nursey range quite widely in age, the younger ones (some as young as 5) are generally kept in over night and released in the day. The first job in the morning is to take some food (usually bananas) to platform D, which is only 2 minutes from the outdoor nursery but you can't see it as the forest is so thick. The usual suspects at platform D are Angkung, he was one of the first I learned to recognise and probably the biggest character, on the first day he stole my hairband, spat sugar cane down Selinas top and tackled me around the neck, if he was a person he'd be a skinhead. He's usually accompanied by Mico who isn't quite as mischievous but doesn't have far to go!
The next job is to clean the cage that the younger ones are kept in over night, then we will sometimes take food to platform A which is the tourist viewing platform, then we have to stand on the bridge incase any of the Orang-Utans come too close and we have to lure them away from the tourists. On our first day Eyos, a very dark, quite buig 9 year old female came down to the platform, Wilson told me to call her over which I did and she came straight down and leapt into my arms, I was temporarily taken aback but it felt completely natural to be carrying around a fully grown female Orang-Utan! I had to take her to the clinic as she had 2 ticks by her eye, it took 4 of us to hold her down while Dr Cecilia removed them, then Eyos took my hand and I brought her back into the forest! On my way back to the outdoor nursery I came across Irwan who asked me if I could take Oscar, one of the larger males back to the outddoor nursery, after a little coaxing I managed to lure him down and carry him back! At half 10 we met Dr Sen, the chief vet of the Sabah Wildlife Department and as we left the meeting we found Ganang, a young very timid little female Orang-Utan hanging on the wall of the clinic, it took a little while to get her down but all we needed was a bit of patience and she followed us back to the outdoor nursery. We stuck around a little while and met a few of the other residents including Naru who is another easily recognisable character! Dusain told us he loves the volunteers, he acts a bit of a wimp and he seems very human dependant but I think he's tougher than he lets on, he put up a good fight when Angkung leapt on him! Next we met Brock, named after Brock Lesnar the wrestler, which we found to be quite fitting as he loves a good wrestle, and particularly enjoys biting wellies!
We have quite a long lunchtime, from about half 11 until 2, as this is the hottest time of the day and the heat would be very hard to work in, its bad enough early in the morning!
The next day in the outdoor nursery was even better! We went with Addie to platform 4, which is about a 20 minute walk into the jungle, we took bananas and some of the slightly oder Orang-Utans who are ready to stay out in the jungle over night. We took Brock, Naru, Anne, Ganang, Austin and Hope. It was fantastic when we got there even though we were sweating like heroes! Austin got scared and jumped onto my lap, I didn't have the heart to push him off, I know I'm meant to be practicing tough love with these guys but its not easy! That was the start of a beautiful friendship between Austin and I, I don't do favourites, but if I did he would be mine! Every time we went up to platform 4 he would sit by me and eat his bananas or jack fruit before scampering back into the trees with Hope. Naru isn't quite so willing to part from us though, a few times he has followed us straught back to the nursery or leapt on us as we leave. After lunch on tuesday we got back to the clinic and found lovely little Ganang covered in paint! She looked so sad and pathetic, Addie gave her a wash and then we towel dryed her and took her back up to the outdoor nursery! She looked so small and sad when she was all wet! In the afternoon we went back to platform 4, but somehow managed to get lost, to be quite honest I think that was Dusains' plan! There are quite alot of little trails that get to the same place, unfortunately as it was only day 2 we didn't quite know them yet! We got there eventually though and it was so worth it when we did because in addition to the group we'd seen earlier Mimi and her baby Ronnie turned up on the platform! Naru seemed terrified by them and clung onto me desperately, I wish he'd man up a bit, I think he'll get there eventually, it just seems a long way off until he's a wild independant Orang-Utan! Merico, one of the older rehabilitated males also turned up to the platform so we made a swift exit followed by Naru who squealed pathetically when we left! Addie told us that he's normally more willing to stay out in the forest over night as Rosalinda is usually with him but she fell from a tree when she was running away from Mimi and has dislocated her leg so will be in quarantine for the next 2 months. When I got back I found my first leech had attached itself to my stomach! Lovely! It bled like a bugger, theres anti-coagulent in there saliva so it felt like I lost about a pint of blood!
As we were finishing work on wednesday Dr Cecilia asked if some of us volunteers would go down a nearby resort with the rangers as there was an Orang-Utan on the roof causing trouble, Annabel and I jumped in the back of the pick-up! We got there and soon realised it wasn't going to be as simple as getting Ganang down from the roof of the clinic! It was an older female that Addie and Wilson didn't recognise and she didn't seem to happy about being harrassed by a big group of humans! She was clearly quite worked up and kiss-squeaking furiously. We left some water melon on the ground and hung back. When she came down the rangers jumped on her, it looked pretty brutal but she was not happy about it and they had to tie her down before Ellis arrived with a tranquiliser. To be honest I felt pretty useless through the whole process although I did carry the watermelon! Haha! The boys carried her into the back of the pick-up and Annabel and I sat around her, hoping the tranquiliser wouldn't wear off in the 5 minutes it took us to get back to the centre! When we got there Dr Cecilia recognised her as Ellen, she had been released 3 years earlier from Sepilok. It was amazing, she seemed so wild, it really is testament to the good work they do at Sepilok, and although the younger Orang-Utans may seem dependant eventually they can be as good as wild!
We've found that quite often theres alot of waiting around when we're at the outdoor nursery so we've been playing alot of cards with Dusain, particularly shithead and some other games which I am fairly sure he makes up as he goes along. Dusain is a bit on the mental side I must say, he was the ranger that gave us the rice wine on my birthday and he frequently sings to the Orang-Utans particularly Angkung!
Throughout the week we took turns to 'police' the tourist platform and trek out to platform 4, by about day 3 we knew the names and faces of all 24 Orang-Utans at the outdoor nursery but we still weren't entirely sure of the way to platform 4 until about day 4! One day Selina and I went out to platform 4 and were disturbed not to see Naru, all the usual suspects were there, Brock, Anne, Annekara, Austin, Hope and Otan but no Naru, we both admitted being quite worried that was until we got back and found out that he had been hanging out at the clinic all day!
The evenings have been fairly uneventful so far, mainly as we've all been so monged out from working in the heat, but Saturday was Sophies last night, so Amoi cooked a delicious feast and all the rangers came round for a little celebration (no rice wine this time though!) Sylvia taught us some Malaysian dancing and we tried and failed to learn a Malaysian song! It was a great night that only began with Wilson putting on Sophies dress and doing his best 'lady boy'!
So far I've had 6 leeches that have attached to me, one even managed to attach through my sock, but I am wise to it now and wear thick socks which I tuck my trousers into, I might have to crack out my attractive pair of leech socks if it continues though! On Sunday there were no issues with leeches but we found an enormous (about 9 inch long) poisonous centipede in the 'staff cage' I must admit I'm generally a fan of big interesting insects but this guy creeped me out a little, but I still picked him up on the end of a ruler and put him safely in the hedge! After our run in with the centipede we walked to platform 4 and took a big bottle of milk, which I have now learnt sends even the mild mannered Anne into a frenzy! They can't get enough of it and will have a huge tantrum if they aren't getting it! Wilson and Addie left to continuew their research in Tabin on monday so we were joined by Joseph and Ray. On Monday we went out to platform 4 and were joined by the usual crowd and also Mimi and Ronny which once again terrified Naru who clung on to whoever was nearest! In the afternoon we were policing the tourist platform, but all the Orang-Utans remained safely in the forest!
Then on our way back to the rest house we came across Eyos getting a little too close to some tourists, we think that she is in estrus at the moment as she is being closely followed by dominant male Miskam. We called her down but didn't want to get too close as Miskam is very protective of her, unfortunately for me she decided to jump into my arms and I had no choice but to run up to the outdoor nursery and prize her off before Miskam got there! It was a bit close for comfort I must say!
Tuesday was our last day at the outdoor nursery, I am totally gutted our placement there is over, I loved every minute of it and although I'm sure all our other placements will be fantastic I really don't want to leave all my Orang-Utan friends! Our last day was by far the best, it was almost like all the Orang-Utans knew it was our last day, I think they probably did as we were allowed to bring cameras on the last day. Dusain was also on excellent form comedy wise!
We went to platform 4 in the morning and in the afternoon, the usual suspects were there but Brock turned up later than normal, although he was hilarious when he did arrive! He sat in the tray of milk and used it like a paddling pool! It was impossible to get it off him when we had to leave and we all stank of sour milk! At one point we came down from the platform as both Mimi and Ronny and Britt (a pregnant female with 1 eye) turned up, the littler ones all clambered up into the trees and Austin (who is an occasional wimp despite being named after Steve Austin) clung onto best friend (well, best friend other than me) Hope. When we arrived back at the outdoor nursery Dusain told us that Mico was causing trouble by reception and asked us to go and retrieve him, we stopped off at the clinic to get some bread to tempt him with and then stood for about 15 minutes calling him, he wasn't having any of it, but made a day nest in the trees. One of the rangers said not to worry and that he'd keep an eye on him. He also showed us an amazing lime green viper to the side of the board walk. He also told us that it was potentially deadly and that Dusain had been bitten by one in his youth! After that we made our way back to the outdoor nursery via the tourist platform, we came across a macaque on our way, the rangers told us that if we see any to pretend that we have a sling shot and shoo them away. It did not work and as we rounded the corner we came across about 10 more macaques including the big male which chased us all the way back! I honestly never knew I could run so fast in wellies!
After lunch we had yet another run in with the pig-tailed macaques, I don't dislike any animal, but if I did then I would dislike macaques! Ganang was in the trees by the road and getting a little to close to the power lines so we went to the clinic to get some bread and bananas to lure her down, but the food intended to lure Ganang down also brought the macaques which made a fairly difficult job even harder. After about 20 minutes of scaring off macaques and coaxing down Ganang I managed to grab her and swing her onto my back only to find Mico hanging around in the trees about 50 yards up the drive. He wasn't having any of it and it was much harder trying to get him down with Ganang on my back, but eventually I got him (and managed to fall into a pile of bushes full of fire ants in the process - ow!) and the 3 of us took them back up to the outdoor nursery. We carried Ganang and Naru as far as platform 3, where we came across Austin and Hope who all follwed us (or followed the food) to platform 4. We stayed for about an hour and at one point were surrounded by 11 Orang-Utans. Mimi and Ronny turned up again, as did Eyos guarded by Miskam, Britt came onto the platform too, then there were the usual youngsters, Otan, Brock, Austin, Hope, Annekara and Naru. Even shy little Ganang put in a brief appearance! It was a fantastic end to the best 9 days of my life! Naru seemed to be acutely aware that it was our last day and clung tightly to each of us in turn as we were leaving!
I really can't believe the week I've had, when I'm there doing it it doesn't seem real and it isn't until I get back to the rtest house in the evening that I realise I had an Orang-Utan sat on my knee today, or I had an Orang-Utan picking off my leeches today (they do love to do that, particularly Otan!)
I'm off to bed now! I've got 3 days of