The Beauty Secrets of Pot-Bellied Ginger Dwarves
Bukit Lawang Travel Blog› entry 57 of 115 › view all entries
June 2nd, 2008 – by: Saladin79
The Rehabilitation Centre at Bukit Lawang takes in orangutans rescued from captivity in unlicensed zoos and from private owners.
It's a procedure that seems to be succeeding in a modest, long-term way, with some orangs more eager to return entirely to the wild than others. This echoes the fact that they share a remarkable amount of DNA with humans and have very distinct individual personalities.
I felt this most keenly when, along with the two English girls, Nat and Fiona, we met in Medan, I went on a day trek into the forest. Within an hour we met Meena, a bit of a local celebrity, famed for her aggression and habit of biting the local guides who refuse to feed her. She swung down towards us and we hurried away, anxious not to be attacked. One of the guides however, stayed behind, handing her a few bananas which she skinned and hoovered up in a matter of moments. He returned to us reporting that she seemed in an amazingly good mood.
I was not too thrilled by the behaviour of the guides; they are not supposed to feed the orangs, it inteferes with the process of rehabilitation. They explained to us that Meena is a law unto herself and almost all of the guides and indeed many of the rangers feed her, they do not feed any of the others. I remained unsure about the methods but, nonetheless, edged closer to Meena, ready to leg it if she spat the dummy for any reason. But she didn't, simply content to hang there looking me over with big brown eyes, a small baby clinging tightly to her side.
It became obvious that she was evaluating me in an astonishingly human way. And while she studied me, I returned the compliment, noticing the mark on her forehead where, some years ago, she was struck with a blade by a local, no-one knows who.
On our next visit to the platform, the day after the trekking, we saw about ten orangs, all either females or young males, swinging down to claim the bananas and milk on offer. They hung around (literally - in the trees) for a while afterwards with the dominant female, Suma (who takes shit from no-one; even Meena is scared of her), happy to study us and be photographed.
The feeding period on my final morning in town was my last chance and the early omens weren't good. There were no orangs around at all and my wish to see the big male looked as though it was to remain unfulfilled. Then, suddenly, a big ape emerged from the cover of the forest to the right of the feeding platform. It was pretty obvious from both his size and the cheek pads developing on his face that the mature male had returned. The rangers got a little jumpy and ushered us a little way back away from him, but it didn't matter, we got to see him snatching up bananas, filling his face and then swinging his great hairy bulk around in the trees circling around us and waiting for females to show.
As the bus bumped its rickety way back to Medan, I sat there feeling as if I had achieved one of the things that had been a personal wish since childhood. It's true to say that I never got to see a wild orangutan, but that's ok. My audiences with the semi-wild ones were more than enough. I was utterly content. And that, well it's a rare thing indeed.
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!