Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bako National Park - A Tale of Two Monkeys

Promiscuous Proboscises and Macaque Attacks

Macaques, my science-teacher wife told me, are the “trailer trash of the monkey world.” They are omnivores – a fancy word for “will-eat-anything.” Also, if you’re not careful, they are omni-stealers. Macaques are particularly fond of plastic bags because plastic bags sometimes contain bananas, potato chips, or 40-ounce bottles of Schlitz Malt Liquor.

As our boat dropped us at Bako National Park, we were greeted by a warning sign:

"Beware of Wild Animals Attack"

That sign was vague, but the next one we saw, on a bulletin board in the park cafeteria, was more specific:

"Beware of Macaque"

And the sign was no joke. Within minutes of our arrival, the macaques were outside, circling our cabin, waiting for us to let our guard down.

Kattina wanted to go hiking. I felt we should stay and defend our property. I did not know how to defend property against a macaque attack. Such a skill was never covered in my two months of judo training, 15 years ago. The truth was, if a monkey came at me, I was going to run away and let it take whatever it wanted. Sure, the macaques were smaller than me, but they possessed a fearlessness I could only dream of. If one bit me, I’d be in the hospital getting rabies shots – an activity possibly less pleasant than the macaque bite.

This thought process – from natural self-defense instincts to raw helplessness – took about 0.3 seconds to blip through my brain, leading me to the conclusion that my best option would be to get the hell out of there, flee into the comparative safety of the Bornean jungle, and hope the dilapidated lock on our door would hold.

There would probably be monkeys in the jungle too, but according to my wife, they would be nicer monkeys. Proboscis monkeys were a species she wanted to encounter.

Proboscis monkeys have astonishingly bulbous noses, Kattina said, and cute pot-bellies. Also, they have webbed feet and are one of the only monkey species that can swim better than me (which, to be honest, isn’t saying much). The proboscis monkeys would be fun, she promised. So we hit the trail in our usual manner: Kattina leading the way, and me whimpering behind her.

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