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Ketapang Update July

The house in Gg Tomat has sprouted a garden. Our little sanctuary in Ketapang which we call home and for which we owe a huge debt of gratitude to sponsors Leo Biddle and the Orangutan Project is nevertheless not the most aesthetic in the street but when you are living and breathing Orangutan you need nothing more than a clean and comfortable bed for the night. Nevertheless it can get a bit boring sitting on the veranda and looking at a plain concrete wall, some galvanised iron fence and sand. So it was that Sara and I, in a fit of enthusiasm on our day off, rebuilt the little stone path, transplanted some little palm type bushes and then extravagantly spent a whole £10 on a beautiful agave and an architectural red plant and mounted them significantly on an aesthetic stone and a chopped off coconut tree trunk on the corner of the patio. Not quite a little piece of England but to us it looks lovely!


G&T on the terrace anyone?

Meanwhile, at the centre, we have settled into a routine. We now know not only most of the orangutan but have even mastered several of the keeper’ names along with pigeon Bahasa Indonesian. There is no doubt that immersing yourself in the language helps to learn. Still a lot of blank faces sometimes but definitely improving. Last night I shot off downtown on our little moped , found the correct (and best) food stall in the town centre, ordered two different takeaway portions of Nasi Uduk in Indonesian and came back with exactly what we had intended. Back of the net as Alan Partridge would have said!

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'Pizza' delivery 'boy' Ketapang style!

The black plastic bag is the take away - not the rubbish!

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Another satisfied customer

Currently, and thankfully, whilst most of the professional staff have been away things have been fairly routine. A recent anaesthetic procedure for an orangutan went well and this coming week we will have to anaesthetise another quarantined baby to repeat tuberculin tests. Most small orangs do their utmost to win you over – it may simply be an ulterior motive in the hope of acquiring more food, accessing the peanuts from your scrub top pocket ( essential veterinary equipment) or just getting attention but this little fellow couldn’t give a damn. He rollicks around in his cage scowling at you and grows an extra pair of hands when you try and extract him from his cage for routine weighings. He sits grumpily hiding in his blue plastic barrel suspended just out of reach and remains unimpressed by offers of treats all of which may mean that he will be a troublemaker but perhaps a real candidate for release – the angry ones usually do best.

Melky the bully boy of the forest school group decided he was not going to sit in the wheelbarrow with the others and go to forest school yesterday morning. At 6 a.m. he was rampaging around the perimeter of the night cages waving a black plastic waste sack and then spent the next hour eluding the efforts of the most dedicated keepers to get him back. There is nothing more frustrating than an orangutan that taunts you at arm’s reach before launching itself effortlessly up into the branches the second you make a lunge. Juice, Yakult yoghurt and treats were all dismissed with a nonchalant shrug, even fresh papaya was no use and it just took persistence until he made a slight error of judgement and Aying the keeper connected with Melky’s trailing foot in mid air.



It is easy to get immersed in the day to day running of the centre, to become absorbed with your patients and to forget the horrors that the orangutan often suffer before, hopefully reaching the sanctuary of our gates. A couple of days spent trying to capture a mother orangutan and her five year old son caught between a local village and a plantation and the horrible discovery of a dead orangutan recently comes like a splash of cold water to the face – surprising and unexpected it jolts you back into the realisation of what is happening all around us. The presidential elections loom in Indonesia, the fight will be between two opponants and local people are sceptical. One candidate is considered by some to still be holding onto some of the notorious Soekarno regime’s principals whilst the other seems to be held in more favour by the younger generation. Unfortunately neither party was particularly positive about its intentions regarding the value and conservation of Indonesia’s forests at a recent debate sponsored by five significant Orangutan NGOs working in the country.

Education of the population and a realisation of the value of this beautiful country’s natural resources are essential before we can make progress in the fight to preserve the rainforest and all its dependant creatures; it will be a great shame if a significant opportunity for change is lost.

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