Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Borneo: Hanging with great apes

Around the corner of the jungle track we came... and there was Minah hanging high above by one powerful, red, hairy limb, another limb was holding baby Anoi, who was using her mother as a climbing frame, while the digits at the end of the remaining limbs - it was hard to tell if they were hands or feet - were clutching a pile of bananas and a coconut.

As we watched, she carefully peeled each of the bananas, dropped the skins on to the jungle floor, pushed away the inquisitive Anoi and enjoyed a pleasant breakfast.

When the bananas were finished, she tore the covering off the coconut, whacked it hard against a tree trunk, broke it open and devoured the tasty white flesh.

Now and again she gave Anoi a titbit but mostly the baby was left to her own devices to snooze, climb or pull sad faces.

Watching this hairy mother and child it was pretty easy to believe that humans and orangutans share 97 per cent of their DNA.

We were at the Semenggoh Orangutan Centre where the orangutans live in the wild except that twice a day some supplementary food - bananas, sweet potatoes, occasionally mangoes and coconuts - are put out for those who want it.

Our expedition ship Orion II, which was cruising around the island of Borneo, had berthed that morning in the Malaysian city of Kuching and the prospect of seeing orangutans had everyone off the ship in record time.

During the bus trip from the wharf to the centre, guide Joe told us there were 26 adult orangutans and 15 babies living in Semenggoh but the number turning up for a feeding session varied widely.

"If none turn up that is the best thing because it means they are surviving on their own in the wild," he said. "It is not so good for the tourists but it is good for the orangutans."

Joe also told us a few scary stories about orangutans, designed to ensure we listened to any instructions from him and the other guides.

We should, he said, be particularly careful if Ritchie, the alpha male at Semenggoh, should happen to turn up, because he was extremely powerful, probably weighed in at 140kg, and could be very aggressive.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo: Hanging with great apes