A new nursery

Old Enclosure

Our project was to construct a large exercise enclosure for the young orphan Orangutans. The existing pen was totally inadequate, too small and cramped.

The task was a timely one as in the last two months the old cage had become unusable. It had rusted and frayed and the orphans had to spend long periods of time in small indoor cages, where exercise and climbing practice was impossible.

Seven of us - 2 Ape keepers and a cage welder from Chester Zoo, 2 volunteer workers, Belinda (our Appeal Secretary) and Sue - set off for Borneo in high spirits, eager to complete the job in hand.

However, it was not all plain sailing. Materials, which had been ordered from England, were incorrect. Our tools, which had been hired, went missing. The welding machine was less than modern, and the heat wave sweeping the country took its toll.

We were determined not to be beaten though! New materials were ordered, the missing tools located and the welding just had to be done very slowly!

Enclosure plaqueWe worked from early morning, breaking during the hottest part of the day and resuming late afternoon. This plan worked well until the next challenge, the ready mixed cement!

It arrived at 2 pm on Friday, but was unlike our ready mix, which pours out of the shoot, it was of a very dry lumpy consistency and it took all our effort, in 36 degrees of scorching sunshine and high humidity, to spread and level the base.

The next day, the framework started to go up but here came our next hurdle. We seemed to have gained two workers – two rehabilitated orangutans, Sabalin and Lemon Tree. Sabalin, a 5-yr-old recently released female, and Lemon Tree, who was a little younger, were desperate to help with the digging and Sabalin was not at all impressed when we took the shovel from her. Next she thought the welding machine looked fun but at this point she had to be removed from the site!

It was not until some hours later that we realised Sabalin and Lemon Tree had not returned to the jungle as we thought, but had taken up a bird’s eye view of the proceedings from the roof of the nursery, where they leant on their elbows and quietly watched.

New excecise enclosureFinally, after numerous other events and mishaps, the exercise enclosure was finished. The 2 keepers from Chester set up the ropes and tyres in a complicated fashion, designed to give the youngsters a challenge.

There was not a dry eye in the place, English or Malaysian, male or female, when the baby orang-utans tested out their new playground and spent hours in playful rapture, showing us just how well they could swing and climb, now they had been given the chance.