OFI caregiver, Pak Heppy, has worked for OFI for many years, based for the last four at Pondok Sukun. “I don’t have many stories,” he initially claims. But as he continues talking, he becomes more and more animated as the tales unfurl from his years of experience. The stories all seem to share some of the same components typical to a day in the life at the Orangutan Care Center: forest, mud, orangutans, and a bit of mayhem.
“We were going out to take the orangutans to forest school, and I’m walking with orangutan Penelope on the boardwalk. It’s then that we hear something and we stop. We look up and a large tree branch is falling down toward us. Penelope and I were so surprised, we both jumped together as one into the mud! I was on one side of the boardwalk, and Penelope jumped onto the other. We got wet and muddy all over. Everyone was laughing at us.
“I always remember my first special relationship with an orangutan, Jeffrey, in 1995-96. I took care of him as a baby. His mouth is very big, but he had quite small teeth then. Sometimes, during forest school, he would make his way to one of the local houses. One time we were sitting at a small shelter in the forest. We hear a small sound, a little ‘Oh!’ but we didn’t think much of it, as we were busy watching the orangutans climb during forest school. Then Dr. Galdikas’ assistant, Michelle, came out of the forest, covered in mud, clothes astray, and somewhat upset. She asked ‘Why didn’t you come to help me?’ and I asked ‘What happened?’ Jeffrey apparently had grabbed her to play, and ended up dragging her down into the muddy waters of the swamp! Oh Jeffrey. He was released back to the wild eventually at the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. We followed him for a number of days and then he disappeared, a good release, a success I think.”
“It’s fun to watch the orangutans as they play-fight on the ground, wrestling, and getting dirty all over their bodies. Just this month, I have started to bring a hammock along to hang up in the trees and sit in while they play. Sometimes I end up sharing it with them. Turner and Steppenwolf like to get in and lie on top of me! It reminds me of Camp Leakey where it was always cooler up at the top of the trees. So we made a little wooden platform and hung hammocks at the top of the tree. Your phone would get a better signal here, and you could have a rest after a busy day.”
“One time orangutan Krista, from another facility, made her way through the Learning Forest to our little encampment. She came into the kitchen and grabbed everything including the pots, splashed waster everywhere, and threw our food around. She is a big orangutan, so we kept our distance. Luckily, her caregivers were not far behind and managed to coax her away. But we still had to clean up after her!”
Yes, it is always unpredictable when you work rehabilitating orangutans on a day to day basis. But Pak Heppy enjoys his work and hopes to work for OFI until all the orangutans at our Care Center in Central Kalimantan return to the wild.