Mr. Orangutan, What to do?
The rainforests are disappearing
And so are you.
But there’s always a home
In the zoo,
Next to giraffe and gnu
You turn it down
What about work as circus clown?
The children laugh
As you frown
Traveling from town to town
Not good either?
Well then maybe you could
Get a job in Hollywood
Be an actor
Yes you should
Star in movies with Clint Eastwood!
— Jeffrey Leventhal
I wrote this poem about 10 years ago when I was going through a mini-creative writing phase of animal based poetry, just like everyone in their late twenties does I suppose. Of course, I did not know then that ta decade later I would be in the rainforests of Borneo looking for orangutans, but this is exactly where I find myself now.
Orangutans (“Forest Man” in Bahasa Indonesian) are the only large primates living outside of Africa. Their natural habitat is the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra which for years has been disappearing at an alarming rate due to illegal logging and forest clearing for slash-and-burn agriculture and palm oil plantations. According to the info center at Tanjung Putting national park, Indonesia and Malaysia are first and second in the world for rainforest degradation. So it is easy to see why orangutans numbers are rapidly decreasing. It is not just orangutans. Indonesia is listed as third in the world for having the most number of critically endangered species. By the way, the United States is first on that list.
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Mika and I arrive Friday evening in the city Palangka Raya. We are now closer to the jungle, but still not quite sure the best manner to see the only large primate not in Africa. Farther east from Palangka Raya is Tanjung Puting national park where we can definitely see orangutans because they have feeding stations for rehabilitated orangutans. But the tours there are expensive, and we would like to see wild orangutans if possible.
|I'm with you buddy! We are not so excited to be here either.|
Obviously this organization is quite successful and, understandably, they are busy worrying about orangutan survival, not foreign visitors. Their information center is more for groups of local Indonesians and children to learn about the plight of the orangutans. Regardless, we are severely disappointed. Not to mention that we hired a private car to come out here just to see some orangutans in a cage and a TV episode of Animal Planet. So we decide to just take a short walk. There is a boardwalk running along the outside of the quarantined, fenced off area.
We walk a little with an escort. We get to a bench where three employees are sitting, and we can actually see an orangutan a short distance away hanging in a tree. I am very excited. Apparently, there is an orangutan class going on and this one is playing hooky. Then suddenly we here a rustling in the nearby bushes and we see a smallish orangutan approaching our watching area.
|It is hard to keep a boardwalk intact with so many adolescent orangutans around|