15 June 2014
Attack of the wilderness: distant cousins – part 2 of 3
This is part 2 of a story started a few days ago as I meandered into the jungle on the eastern side of Borneo.
Moments after I had avoided an attack by monkeys, I noticed a lone orangutan which made me laugh as it was napping lazily on branches, before standing up to eat some leaves and then resting again on the wooden railing. It rolled itself up in a ball, in a hilarious slumped posture; its gentle eyes and constant smile could not but just bring a smile to my face. I particularly like that photo of the ape hung up at the top of a vertical branch and covering its mouth with its hand, as if to hide its own hysterical laughter at having noticed me taking pictures.
About 20% of the world’s orangutans live in Borneo, that’s about forty thousand of them – did you know that those apes share more than 96% of their genes with us humans? More than their genetic proximity, the intense look in their eyes seemed wanting to say something. I couldn’t help but be touched by this distant long-haired cousin. Was it thinking something as it was looking back at me?
The first time I had seen orangutans was the year before, in the Singapore zoo (http://goo.gl/hFNiS3). I have to admit that I’ve never been a big fan of seeing animals out in the wild as opposed to simply seeing them in a zoo. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against it but I wouldn’t necessarily travel and pay a lot of money for the uncertain probability of seeing them (I’m thinking of some safaris in Africa). Heck, paying “too much” even with the certainty of seeing animals is generally something that would lure me away (this – Virgin Galactic suborbital flights – makes me dream a little bit more, although it’s outrageously expensive). I guess I can live with little, having been raised not to throw money around (maybe limiting my ability to spend for myself at times?), and I also like to investigate and organise things on my own without going through intermediaries whose professionalism has rarely impressed me. On that topic, I’d also quote that witty remark expressed by a character in Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera: "Rich I am not, he said. I am a poor man with money, which is not the same thing”. Digressing again (but who reads my stuff anyway?), let’s go back to my orangutan.
It then started raining. I had stashed my small – red – umbrella into my lens bag. It’s only when I realised that the ape was attracted to the umbrella that I understood why accessories and bags had to be left in lockers at the entrance of the reserve. But it was too late and as the orangutan started accelerating towards me, I started running too – and this time, I was the one who overtook a couple of older Frenchmen who didn’t realise yet what was happening. I didn’t look back and let them handle the situation, mwhahaha.
Once again did I make it safe. But things always come in threes, don’t they? I would decidedly have to be always on my guard as the next type of attack generally leaves ten percent of its victims dead cold. Shivers.
To be continued in part 3. Stay tuned.