Friday, November 30, 2012


Meet Siswi.  Long time Camp Leakey resident.  Star of an IMAX movie (she's the one eating noodles with Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas in the movie).  Fruit fan. Purse lover.  Happy baby pose enthusiast.  Tourist and guide terrorizer.  Eileen chaser.

Siswi is a complicated character.  We had heard many stories about her from our guide and boat captain before meeting her.  She has a rep, fo sho.  To our guide, Juju, she is an unpredictable bully.  To our captain, she was more of a playful prankster.  To others, she is "the receptionist," greeting boats at Camp Leakey's dock. 

Apparently Siswi is one of the first offspring of a rehabilitated orangutan back in the '70s when Camp Leakey was founded (and, omg, we share the same birthday, although she's a year older!).  She had a disease in the past that rendered her sterile, so she is one of the few females in the park without a child.  She's free to come and go from the camp into the forest, but she's very social and likes to hang out with the forest rangers in their camp, on the dock, in the river by the boats...  it helps that the boat crews throw her food scraps (see below):


Siswi-related incidents that we heard about from our guide include:  she pushed him off the dock into the (crocodile-filled) water, she man-handled him in an awkward attempt to mate with him, she bit him (is that accurate, ladies who were on the trip with me?).

Siswi-related incidents that I read about online: she occasionally climbs on the boats to play with tourists' things, she imitates humans by using tools like brooms and toothbrushes, she removes sarongs and wears them... among many others.

We had our own Siswi-related incidents, too, but only after watching her chill in the water by our boat while we ate lunch (and I guarantee that she knew it was lunchtime on the boats):

She seemed pretty laid back there in the water, just messing around:


It was only once she was on the move and heading for the dock that you could hear a bit of familiar nervousness in the boat crew's voices (that's them in the background saying "hei, hei, ke mana? ayo which means, "hey, hey, where are you going?  come on.").  

She scrambled up the dock and walked towards the shelter (where our captain was hanging out), with big plans to lounge there and pester passers-by, of which there are many, as that walkway is the only entrance to the park.

A little harmless interaction with our captain, a little happy baby pose and a little lounging are all fine and good, but Siswi is still pretty playful.

While she was lying like this on the dock, a woman (who seemed a little bit out of place, all dressed up) walked by with a fancy handbag with all sorts of dangling sparkly things on it, and Siswi just reached her long arm out and grabbed the lady's purse.  Luckily our captain and the other guys hanging out near her were able to get her to let go before she was able to disassemble the bag.

Aaaaand, finally, the story you've been waiting to hear: While we were eating lunch on the boat and watching Siswi play around on the dock, Eileen got a little bit overzealous about getting the perfect shot and jumped up on the dock, quite unaware of the fact that she still had her apple from lunch in her hand.  Siswi, being the ever observant food lover she is, noticed right away and quickly made a beeline for Eileen.  Eileen retreated as everyone in the vicinity yelled at her to get rid of her apple.  Finally it clicked and Eileen tossed the apple off the dock into the forest.  Siswi, luckily, abandoned the chase and followed the apple down.  Phew. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Macaques of Tanjung Puting

Tanjung Puting was full of all sorts of monkeys and apes... in addition to the more rare proboscis monkeys, gibbons and orangutans, there were also many macaques hanging around.  This variety is the long-tailed or crab-eating macaque (when our guide told us that name, I misheard him and thought that they ate crap. oops.).  They're pretty pushy, competing with the orangutans for fruit. 

We stumbled on this group of them, chilling on near the raised walkway that leads into Camp Leakey.  One of the mothers had a little baby with her... the babies are born black and then their coat turns grey as they age:

This one macaque was pretty aggressive... I'll let the photos do the talking.  I made you a flip book to illustrate what we witnessed:

We also got to see this one take a little swim by the river's edge for a snack he saw floating by... apparently macaques are quite adept swimmers.  They like to roost in trees by the river's edge, making it easy for them to drop from the tree into the water to escape a predator or just to reach the other side.  We actually saw them doing this while we were on the boat- they dropped over 3 stories down from a tree top and then paddled across the river.

Our guide told us not to make direct eye contact with the macaques, as they see that as a threat.  This guy looks like he was trying to make eye contact with Eileen.  Or maybe she was just trying to cross all the T's and dot all the... um... lower case J's:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Orangutans at Pondok Tanggui

Our next orangutan viewing after Tanjung Harapan was at Pondok Tanggui, another feeding station within Tanjung Puting national park.

On the way to the feeding station we saw this guy hanging out near the ranger station, snacking on some fresh bananas and some less fresh jackfruit that looks a little long in the tooth (jackfruit is Jenny's favorite... ok, it's her least favorite.  Next time you talk to me, you'll have to ask me what she said about jackfruit after trying it, as it's not fit to print on this family blog):

There was some inter-species mingling going on, too:

While we were at the Pondol Tanggui feeding station, we were lucky enough to see this giant, dominant male orangutan come in for a snack.  We thought the one we saw at Tanjung Harapan was big, but this guy dwarfed him.  Look at those cheek pads!  One of the guides said he was 27 years old.

He looked really calm and relaxed, but if you looked closely, you could tell that he was keeping an eye on everything going on around him:

This little squirrel dared to jump up on the platform while the big guy was up there, but he was one of the only ones:

Look at the size of his neck flap.  His neckflap brings all the girls to the yard:

Like I said above, not many other orangutans dared to get on the platform while the big guy was up there (with his eyes on them, see above).  There were several orangutans hanging out in the trees surrounding the platform, just waiting their turn...  this guy below, though, couldn't wait but wouldn't approach the platform, instead choosing to go straight to the ranger's basket:

I love this mom and baby, biding their time:

This fellow, in particular, was really upset about the big guy taking so much time on the platform.  He was swinging through the trees somewhat violently, breaking large branches and throwing them down, and making a lot of noise, including this weird "kiss squeak" noise that orangutans make when they're upset/nervous:

Finally, a mom and baby ventured down to the platform, but they were still pretty wary about pissing the big guy off while grabbing bananas:

After a while the big guy took to the trees. It's hard to believe that the trees didn't just break under his weight...  As you can see from the (back lit, sorry) video below, he used his weight to sway trees back and forth in order to travel in between them.  Pretty cool!