The sanctuary has 6 orangutan islands, where a number of orangutans live and roam around freely. It might not quite be the rainforest conditions, they would have in their natural habitat, but this are possibly the best conditions they can live in while in captivity. Obviously the orangutans should not leave the island, since this could be quite dangerous for both species of orangs alike. They are incredibly skilful climbers, which rules out a fence as the methods of choice. But they can not swim, therefore a moat is ideal. The food and enrichment are distributed via boat and all of the volunteers were allowed to join some of these trips which was a wonderful reward for all the hard work we are doing. The boat keeps a fair distance to the island to prevent any unforeseen events – like an orangutan entering the boat. If this would happen, the only way for us would be to get out of the boat into the water.
Unfortunately the fertile soil and warm climate means water plants are growing rather well in the moat, which can make it really difficult to paddle along during feeding times.
But hey, what are you going to do if this is the case and you have some volunteers hanging around? You send them in to pull out the plants!
What can I say, the water does not look too inviting, since it is brown and the ground is rather muddy. We also didn’t win a fashion award when we entered the moat in long trousers, with the socks pulled over them and the t-shirts tugged in to prevent what ever is in the water to get into our clothes. Some of us were just wearing socks, while others (this might have been me) pulled off the socks in sandals number in a damn stylish way (obviously!!!!). Others decided that wellies are the way to go. Since they run full of water immediately they provide some extra workout, whilst fighting the way through the water. After we got over the first shock, we all happily pulled out the plants and threw them on to the bank. Soon we had company: One of the little ones on island 1, Ijahl, thought we were there to entertain him. He started to throw the plants we just had ripped out back at us. His throwing technique quickly improved after he had watched us for a while. But we needed to be really weary, since he really loves being in the water (holding on to the bank with either an arm or a leg) which means he could get very close to us if he wanted to. Some of the keepers had joined us too and at one point a mud fight started. It’s difficult to say who started it, but it was not pretty. After we made it out of the moat we all agreed that having an orangutan accompanying us was the best thing about the moat. Funny enough the brown smelly clothes were on nobodies list of favourite moments.
Let’s see what excitement our second visit to the moat will bring.