Give us a machete and we chop it all down

Well, not really “all” obviously, but some things. And it’s really exciting, since how often have most people actually used a machete? In my case the answer was: never.


Happy faces after we finished ginger leaf collection (picture courtesy of Wiwik)

In the wild orangutans build a new nest high up in the trees every night. The orangutans in the cages can not do the same without us providing some suitable leafs. Therefore one of our daily tasks is leaf collection. We are all given machetes to harvest some ginger leafs. I had a bit of a Lara Croft moment, bashing my way through the undergrowth and chopping the big ginger leafs. It is very rewarding to cut them off with a single strike. Dragging them out to the car without falling over was quite a challenge some times, especially knowing that you hold a razor sharp machete in your hand.

Adult female orangutan enjoying some bamboo enrichment, which the volunteers had prepared earlier.

Adult female orangutan enjoying some bamboo enrichment item, which the volunteers had prepared earlier.

I’m glad to tell you, there were no injuries during the four weeks.
After we collected the leafs we handed them out to the orangutans and watched them do their thing, some of them thought it’s a game and threw them right back. Since we all loved spending a lot of time with them, we didn’t mind and just handed them back to them. The big guys sometimes pretended not to be interested in the leafs at all, but as soon as we turned our backs on them they pulled them in the cage and started building their nest, or just ate them ?
It is amazing to watch them and it really looks like they are having a lot of fun with the leafs. It is such a great feeling to see that what you do for them actually improves there wellbeing.
Cutting ginger is a rather easy task, but not at all less sweaty. And in some occasions you have to put up with being attacked by biting ants which are living on the leafs.

First part of the job done. Next challenge - trying to not get your fingers trapped ?

First part of the job done. Next challenge – trying to not get your fingers trapped ? (picture courtesy of Wiwik)

A more challenging task is chopping down bamboo. They are real beasts. After chopping the big stems down they need to be sawed down to ~ 2m and carried to the car, which might involve a hill and some undergrowth. To make sure the stems don’t fall off, we had to sit on them on the back of the car. Back at the enrichment area of the sanctuary the bamboo needed to be sawed into usable chunks, which then could be filled with fruit flavoured porridge, nuts and seeds for the orangutans or jam, nuts and seeds for the sun bears. Providing food and treats in this way requires them to make an effort to get to it, which stimulates their brains and keeps them entertained for some time. They even use tools (like sticks or leafs) to get everything out. And don’t think the interest in the bamboo would end after getting all the treats out.

Uhhhh, let's see what's in there

Uhhhh, let’s see what’s in there

It can be used for drinking and (even more fun) throwing at us, when we passed the little ones on our boat trip around the islands when feeding them.

Posted in Animals, Conservation, Nature.