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. 

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