LIASION OFFICER’S UPDATE – ‘LUCKIEST PERSON IN THE WORLD’ Hetty

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I was really inspired by the work that goes on at Sepilok and so I adopted a baby orangutan from the Orangutan Appeal UK as I wanted to help. I received my adoption pack which contained a newsletter that the Appeal publishes every six months and read that they were looking for someone to work at the Centre as a Liaison Officer.

Immediately, I knew I wanted to apply and I became the luckiest person in the world when, after a gruelling interview, my dream came true, and Sue chose me for the role!

A few months later, after I received my training at the Appeal's office in Brockenhurst, I was on my way to Sabah. I settled into my job very quickly and there was never a dull moment! I loved being able to pass on my enthusiasm and raise awareness of the importance of orangutan conservation in Borneo.

My role was to present the Appeal to the visitors at Sepilok by giving education talks before the daily feeding sessions and promoting the adoption programme which brings in essential funds, as well as gathering news and photos of the orangutans
that live in the surrounding reserve.

There were so many highlights of the role and one of the most exciting moments was when the magnificent CID came to visit the feeding platform! Wow! He is a huge, fully flanged, alpha male who resides in the reserve but only makes an appearance once or twice a year on average so it was amazing to be able to see him five times whilst he pursued the love of his life a young female called Clenan.

There is always a lot of orangutan mischief going on at the centre, from stealing cameras and umbrellas, to chasing the builders around trying to steal their tools.

Another highlight of my time as the Liaison Officer was when I was mugged by an orangutan called Ann. It was 6am and there was a ranger knocking on my door and shouting that there had been a burglary at the centre and my cupboards had been broken into and the contents, polo shirts, had been stolen and were being worn as hats by the culprits.  This was no ordinary robbery – this was, of course, the work of the orange apes! I quickly dressed and went to see what was going on and found C.T. fleeing from the chaos she had caused and Ann trying to open yet another pack of polo shirts. As I approached the scene, Ann saw me and came over, not to greet me, but to continue her criminal rampage by mugging me!  Her hand and face were in my pockets searching for anything she could get hold of and it took all my strength to get away from her with my belongings.

Working at Sepilok made me realise why I love working with animals - they are so unpredictable and every day is different, so it never gets boring. I saw many orangutans during my time and began to understand their individual personalities. There is nowhere else in the world I could wake up to the sound of hornbills on my roof, see a pit viper on my way to work, watch macaque monkeys steal a tourist's lunch and see a baby orangutan learn to live in the wild. I want everyone to know how much of a difference the Appeal makes for these beautiful apes of Sabah and ask you all to continue your support.

So thank you Sue for giving me this opportunity! I can only hope that I can do something in the future as great as you have with Orangutan Appeal UK.

Hetty Upton – Liaison Officer 2012