11 June 2014
Attack of the wilderness: silver primates – part 1 of 3
I survived... but not without high-frequency heartbeats – although that’s always better than bruises, torn limbs or poisoned blood. I only had it close.
I initially thought I wouldn’t see more than the few orang-utans which emerged from the rainforest to collect food distributed at regular hours in the sanctuary of Sepilok, a jungle on the Malaysian side of Borneo island (which is otherwise split with Indonesia and the small sultanate of Brunei). The humidity in the middle of that thick leech-filled rainforest (and with other weird insects like the red and black one the size of a table tennis ball) caught me off guard: my camera lens was immediately covered with condensation, despite having travelled in a non-air-conditioned bus the previous hour. It made me fairly annoyed as I had also forgotten to carry along a soft cloth to wipe the condensation off. My T-shirt would obviously do but I’m who I am and still was upset at myself!
Silver monkeys were playfully stealing some of the food intended for the orang-utans and sometimes aggressively trying to snatch what their fellow species had managed to grab. I was no longer in utter awe at seeing so many freely-wandering monkeys: the first time I had seen so many was in Rajasthan, in India, four years ago, and then in the city of Phetchaburi in Thailand (where tourists are warned of monkey attacks), and of course in Indonesia as well. But I am still always fascinated by those almost-human-faced animals (to the point that Google+ asked me to type in the name of a monkey on one picture, thinking it was a human being!), so sneaky and so agile – and how can those babies clinging to their mothers’ bellies not be cute?
I knew I had to be careful of course, not only because I could see those monkeys sometimes being aggressive to one another (yep, you can clearly see those sharp canines on one picture towards the end of my shared album). There are however other silly animals – humans for that matter – that don’t seem to get that those monkeys are wild animals, especially when you find them in the jungle. At first, it was a bit terrifying to hear a shriek in the middle of the jungle, and numerous monkey growls and cries immediately after. But then, I couldn’t resist to smile (okay – I’ll admit it – even smirk) when I saw a tearful German blonde running back towards civilisation out of the jungle, after having had four monkeys jump on her and probably pull her hair. In case you were wondering, there are indeed a few rangers patrolling but they obviously can’t be everywhere in the jungle. So when you’re in the jungle, you’re on your own, no joke.
I laughed less when four Brits in their twenties started to “play” with monkeys – which obviously started attacking again, the Brits darting off, not apologetic at all of bumping into me. And then I started running too (duh!). Thanks to my avid practice (not) of Temple Run (a popular game on Android), I knew how to run on – what am I saying, gracefully jump and slide along – the wooden walkway, at times glancing behind me to check how quickly the “demonic” monkeys were catching up on me.
I made it safe but the respite was only brief.
To be continued in part 2. Stay tuned.