Being treated to a local Malaysian breakfast and a trip to the zoo : Tuesday 11th October. 

On Tuesday we went to work as usual, only to be told we were being treated to breakfast and a trip to the zoo!
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We piled into the back of the pickup truck with our ranger Jermious and our other ranger Ibrey. We were driven to the local Forest Research Centre and were treated to breakfast by our rangers. We were told that a traditional Malaysian breakfast consists of rice, noodles and something called ‘Roger’ which looks like spaghetti bolognese with pieces of meat or egg in it, it’s basically a mixture on any leftovers that you have! We also had a mixture of different cakes. They were all lovely, a mixture of sponges filled with coconut and one that tasted exactly the same as a cinnamon swirl (which was lovely!)
img_6685img_6684After breakfast we all got back into the truck and drove 2 miles down the road to the zoo. It was really busy because a school trip had just turned up. Ibrey, our ranger, explained that in Malaysia parents like to go on school trips with their children so it was very busy with mums and school children!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJermious bought our tickets and we entered the zoo, it was small and similar to a city zoo. They had macaques, lots of reptiles, crocodiles, a minor bird that spoke to us, lots of turkeys (which reminded me of home and made me miss my four!) chickens and ducks. It was nice to walk around, there was a huge pond with water lilies in and huge fish, catfish and turtles that you could feed.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the zoo we all got back into the truck to head home. Jermious and Ibrey jumped in the back of the pickup with us. “can you do this in your country?” she asked. “NO! We have to wear seatbelts too!”…Ibrey just laughed at us!
We drove the two miles home in the back of the truck, Ibrey was terrified because the driver, who was one of the young guys from our house, was driving really fast! Ibrey was screaming and shouting at him! We were in hysterics laughing at her! When we pulled up at the guesthouse Ibrey got out of the truck holding her head “Thank God, I’m still alive!”

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It’s hard to keep your eyes open when your hurtling down the motorway!

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Oh don’t mind me, I’m just off to release a Python : Monday 10th October

After the Rosa incident on Monday, which you can read about here, we went back to work in the afternoon to do our usual routine of cleaning and ice lolly making. After we’d finished we were asking the staff if there was anything we could do before we finished for the day “you can go and hold the snake?”. By ‘the snake’, Ibrey meant a huge Reticulated Python that had been taken to Sepilok a week or so before. The snake was a healthy weight again and could now be released back into the wild.

We made our way around to the snakes cage and watched as the rangers got it out (it was quite angry so this was a bit nerve racking to watch!) once Jermious, the ranger, had hold of the snakes head it was time for us all to hold the body! It was so beautiful, the markings on it were gorgeous, lots of different browns with mustard yellow running through it.  It was huge too and so strong, you could feel the strength of its muscles pulsing through its body. After we had a photo it was time to release it!
img_6783I didn’t actually realise that we were going to be helping with that but Jermious said we’d all walk it down to the jungle!
We walked the short walk down to the boardwalk, stepped off the platform and placed it onto the ground. It slithered off and it’s beautiful markings instantly blended into the jungle and it was instantly camouflaged. We watched as it slighted along and made its way to the base of a tree. The next thing we knew it began ‘climbing’ up the tree, it’s body became straight as it began scaling the tree. Half of the snakes body was straight up the tree then it started to corkscrew it’s body around to help push it up further, it was such an amazing thing to watch, I had no idea snakes did that! After a short while it was up the tree and making its way across to a larger tree, Jermious explained that they live in holes in the larger trees.

It was incredible to be part of the snakes release and it was amazing to see it go back into the jungle. It’s so incredible to be given the opportunity to get involved with things like this while staying at the centre. What a great Monday!!

Naughty Rosa, the latte drinking orangutan

Monday the 10th October was a Monday like no other! My group started the day by cleaning the quarantine room at the clinic, it’s been  months since it’s been touched because Ceria and Kala (two naughty male orangutans at the centre) broke in and ripped all the lighting and fans out of the ceiling! We scrubbed all the cages, scrubbed the walls and bleached the floor. After a lick of paint and new lights the place looked as good as new! Ibrey, the lady who we work with in the clinic, was so happy that she could use the room again and was so thankful for our help, it really was so rewarding to be able to fix the room for her and the orangutans.

As we were leaving after our shift we were walking to the gate to leave the centre and we saw an orangutan standing with one of the cleaners, we didn’t recognise them and asked the cleaner who it was and if it was OK for us to walk passed them. “It’s Rosa, she’s OK”.
It’s always nice to see a new orangutan at the centre, there are so many semi wild ones that hang around on a daily basis that it’s nice to see a new face. We walked past Rosa and went back to our guesthouse to grab our cameras as we were going to pop to the sunbear sanctuary (which is a stones throw away from our house) in our lunchbreak.

As we walked into the entrance of the sunbear sanctuary we walked up the steps and infront was a tourist photographing an orangutan on the steps! It’s always a worry to see an orangutan outside the centre as there are tourists around that don’t respect the fact these are wild animals and will do anything for a good photo! (feeding them, cuddling them, calling them over – frustratingly those all happen! They’re not so happy when they get too close and get their phone/camera stolen by the orangutan!)
We soon realised it must be Rosa on the steps as she’d been hanging around the gate when we left work. We didn’t really know what to do when we saw her , we didn’t know what she was like with strangers as we’d never spent any time with her since being at the centre.
We called her name and she looked over at us and started walking towards us along the railings. We decided that if we could get her to follow us we would try and lead her back to the centre. The plan was working so far, we were calling her name and she was following along the railings (….this seems too easy, I thought to myself!)

Rosa continued along the railings until she stopped, looked over the edge and jumped down into the bushes below (I thought it had been too good to be true!) We watched her as she went off into the bush below us and pulled out a cup of coffee, half empty but complete with a straw! She took it in her hand and pulled herself back onto the railings where we were standing and decided to finish off the rest of the coffee! Although she shouldn’t have been drinking it (well done to the idiot that decided to throw their litter into the jungle – arghhh!) it was great to watch her do it!

The way she figured out how to get the coffee out, how she took out the straw, took off the lid and drank every last drop was so fascinating to watch, so human like!
One of the girls in my group decided to run back to the centre to see if they were happy with us bringing her back “erm…Rosa is up at the bear sanctuary drinking a latte!”
After she finished her coffee she was happy to follow us again. We had to get her past the tourists at the entrance to the bear sanctuary but this was fairly easy once I’d told them that she might try to steal their cameras, wallets, sunglasses or phones! She followed us all the way back to the centre, past the tourists and through the gates!
It was such a surreal moment having a wild orangutan following you along. I don’t know why she did so, we didn’t have anything with us that she might have wanted but I think it might have been because we knew her name and we had our work t-shirts on or many because we were new faces to her she was intrigued by us! It was so great just walking alongside her, with her glancing up at me everytime I called her name. Finally we reached the centre and we had done it – we got her back to the centre with us, her and the tourists all in one piece! We walked in through the gates, she looked at us then decided to go off and do her own thing and off she went! Mission accomplished!

Nocturnal Trekking – 7th & 8th October

After our normal working day on Friday we were told that we’d be going on a nocturnal trek, this had been planned since we got here and every group gets a turn with their ranger. Our ranger is called Jermious, he has worked at Sepilok for 30 years and knows the jungle inside out so he’s a great ranger to have when you’re trekking!

When we started out it was strange as we were walking around the centre at night and it felt like we’d broken into school after hours! In the day the centre is alive with people and naughty orangutans running all over the place so it was so strange to see it so quite and deserted. We made it to the outdoor nursery which is where we work with the juveniles and it was so still, then out of the corner of my eye I saw something glide past, it looked like a frisbee – it was a flying squirrel! It was so bizarre to see it just flying by, we also saw a flying Lemur, which are quite rare.

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photo courtesy of Flick River

After the flying squirrels we set off into the jungle to find more critters! Thankfully we stuck to the boardwalk and didn’t venture off deep into the jungle. It was a bit creepy being in the jungle with just a torch to shine the way! We were told not to touch the handles of the walkway because it would be alive with termites and scorpions!

img_6663img_6664As we walked along the noise was deafening and seemed different from in the daytime. We walked along the boardwalk and Jermious was pointing out lots of insects for us to see. He pointed into the bushes saying ‘bird, bird’ – a tiny little bird was nesting underneath the leaves, it was so cute! This little bird doesn’t build a nest but instead uses the leaves as cover.
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We saw various geckos, frogs and caterpillars and also a Green Viper snake, our ranger Jermious stepped off the boardwalk and into the jungle to take a further look, he got us to follow him and we all had a close look at the viper that was in the tree infront of us. When we stepped back onto the boardwalk we asked him if it was poisonous ” oh yes, very very poisonous!” he replied! “How long do you have to get to a hospital if you’re bitten by one?” was our next question….”oh erm… 20 minutes!” he said…..We left that spot pretty quickly!
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A Hammerhead worm

On the second night we started off on the walk and saw a Civet Cat, it was so cute! They are the cats that produce the most expensive coffee (google it…it’s pretty bizarre!) It looked like a tabby cat but with a possums head. It didn’t really seemed bothered by us shining our torches in its face!

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photo courtesy of Pinterest

We also saw a Lantern Bug on a tree, it was the prettiest little thing, all multi coloured with a little blue horn on its head! It sits at the bottom of the tree and drinks the urine of the geckos that sit above it. It was so beautiful and colourful!

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photo courtesy of The Sun (…I know, I thought that seemed weird too)

We also saw lots of different bugs, worms, crabs (yes, like the type you’d find on the beach!) scorpions and general creepy crawlies! It was amazing to see them all and learn all about their different habitats and jobs in the jungle.

On the way back to the guesthouse an hour later we were lucky enough to see a little Slow Loris up the tree near our house, it was so cute! It was small, with big eyes and moved very slowly! It was eating the bugs in the trees and slowly made it way off up the tree.

 

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photo courtesy of Wikipedia

We also saw a HUGE green racer snake in the tree near our house, it was just curled up in the tree. We were told that it could possible stay there for up to a week waiting for food, it was a bit eerie to think that it was so close to home!

img_6674Our nocturnal treks were amazing! At first it was a little scary to be out in the jungle with only a torch, never knowing whats around the corner but it was so fascinating. It was great to see how the jungle is at night and how it comes alive with all the different insects, birds and sounds. It was a really great experience!

Giving back to the jungle: river cruise and ‘carbon offset project’

On the 5th of October we had our second day off in a row, we were all super excited because we were being taken on a ‘carbon offset project’. The idea of the project is to try and offset some of our carbon footprint and to ‘give back’ to the forest. We were going to be taken into a part of the jungle that had previously been used for a palm oil plantation and each of us were to plant two trees, each helping to rebuild a part of the forest that had been lost to deforestation.

We were picked up from our guesthouse at 12.30 by a local guide. We were then driven for about an hour to a nearby house along the river. The drive itself was really good, you drive past huge stretches of palm oil plantations – it really is a sight to see. Miles and miles of palm trees line both sides of the motor way for as far as you can see, the plantations are so thick with palm trees, it’s incredible.
The houses that we passed are also amazing, they line the motor way, they are made of wood, usually high up on stilts (which sometimes looks like they could snap at any minute!) they are also painted really bright colours, bright pink with yellow window and door frames, they are amazing to see! Some of the houses look very run down, the wood is old and the porches out the front are rotten but nearly every house we passed had a satellite dish on the side of it!

After an hour or so of driving our car turned off the motor way and up a little dirt track (if anyone from Pret is reading this, it was just like the track to work but with more stray dogs!) we pulled up under a tree next to the river and there was a little boat ready and waiting for us! A little motor boat complete with 12 bright orange life jackets.
We got on board and off we went, it was so exciting and like nothing I’d ever done before! The view was incredible and I thought I was going to give myself whiplash from trying to look at everything! The river was really high because we’d had alot of rain the night before, we drove through the jungle, it was so peaceful but exciting at the same time.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR2600.DCIM101GOPROGOPR2601.img_6619img_6620DCIM101GOPROGOPR2596.Below is one of my videos that shows us going down the river.

The wildlife along the river was amazing, we were so lucky to see some Rhino Hornbills which we were told are quite rare to see! We also saw a Probiscus monkeys leaping through the trees, it was so breath taking to see and after visiting the ones at the sanctuary in the first week it was amazing to see them in the wild!
img_6629DCIM101GOPROGOPR2596.img_6569DCIM101GOPROGOPR2606.img_6624After being on the boat for about 20 minutes we could see a little hut in the distance, we pulled up along side it in the boat and were met by the family that run the Carbon Offset Project.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR2602.We were welcomed into the hut and treated to lunch (banana fritters and tea!) before we went off to plant our trees. Our guide Jeffrey told us about the history of the jungle, the project and a bit about the river. The view from the hut was truly breathtaking, I’d never seen anything like it. The river was so still and was so relaxing and calming to watch, there wasn’t anything for as far as you could see other than the river and the trees that lined it. You can actually stay at the hut as part of their project, they put sleeping bags on the floor of the hut and you sleep there, outside with an amazing view of the river!

img_6572img_6571img_6575img_6576After lunch and after our talk it was time to plant our trees, we would have usually trekked for a while until we reached the right spot but as the weather was so high from the rain the night before we didn’t have to trek (which we were pretty relieved about as it was so hot!) We all got to plant two trees each and we were so excited to see that our trees even had our name, the date and our nationality on a little plaque in front of the tree!

It was so hot and we got eaten alive by mosquitos (this was the day I found out that they can bite through leggings!..argh) it was such an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget. Knowing that I have two trees that I planted in the Borneo jungle, that when they are big enough will provide fruit for the local animals is a great feeling. We hear so many horrible stories about deforestation and the palm oil plantations that it was nice to know that slowly things are changing and people are giving back to the forest, I feel very lucky to have been able to give something back too and to know that my tree will stand in the Borneo jungle for hundreds of years!
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My first week in the Indoor Nursery: cuteness overload!

After trekking and the outdoor nursery it was time for my third rotation which was in the indoor nursery with the smallest babies that they have here at Sepilok (squeeeelll!!!)

The indoor nursery is currently home to Alagu, Koko, Ospie, Musa, Unico, Peanut, Goman, Sepilok and Archie – 9 babies which are all between 2 and 4 years old. They have usually been found by palm oil plantation owners, a few of them have been kept illegally as pets. I was lucky enough to be spending 6 days looking after these guys and I couldn’t wait!

On our very first day we had to weigh all the babies, all the orangutans at Sepilok have regular check ups including weigh ins and temperature checks. Orangutans share 96.4% of the same DNA as us and can fall ill just as easily as we can. We had to carry the babies out and put them in a little basket on the scales – here is a video from the center that shows how we weigh the babies! (not my video!)

Once the babies have had their breakfast and milk we take them outside while we clean their room, when we’ve finished cleaning it’s time for them to have their climbing practice! There are ropes outside the nursery that go into the trees and the babies are encouraged to climb and interact with each other in the trees. In the wild babies of their age would be close to the mother, they would be taught to stay away from the ground as to avoid predators, so we have to teach them the same! Below is video of Peanut that was filmed at the centre about a year ago, Peanut it now one of the best climbers and should soon be moving up to the outdoor nursery with the older orangutans!

It’s so cute to watch them climbing through the trees, they are so small but yet can climb so high! They play with one another and interact with the older semi wild orangutans too. It’s so lovely to see all ages coming together to play and to see how gentle they are with one another.

I absolutely loved my time with the babies, it was great to work up close with them and care for them. Watching them climb up high in the trees is amazing to see. When you’re feeding them their milk it melts your heart! They look at you so intently and it’s incredible! It’s amazing seeing the babies thrive and hearing the stories from the rangers about how the babies came here and how in most cases they’ve had to be nursed back to health with around the clock care. The bond between the orangutans and the rangers is so special to see and I feel so lucky to be able to help these little guys on their journey back to the wild.

Three days off: pool day, chilling and the Rainforest Discovery Center

Sunday 25th was the beginning of our three day break. A few of the group decided go away for the weekend, others spent a few nights at nearby hotels for a bit of luxury and the rest of us stayed at our guesthouse. We wanted to have a relaxing weekend so we decided to just do things that were free (bonus!) and close to home!

On Sunday we all enjoyed a little lie in, well as much as you can with the sounds of the jungle outside your window! We made our way down to the outdoor nursery to watch the juveniles being fed and mucking about. It’s good to be on the other side of the fence watching them in the viewing platform with the tourists, it’s good to hear everyone laughing and pointing out all the funny little things they are doing. After that we chilled out, caught up on washing our clothes (…hand washing clothes is SO BORING) and watched a few films.

On Monday we went to the outdoor nursery again in the morning to see our adopted orangutan children causing havoc once again! Then we decided on a pool day, it was so hot! And was great to sunbathe and have cool off in the pool.

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On Tuesday I went to the Rainforest Discovery Center with Chloe and Hatti, my two roommates from the guesthouse. It’s just down the road from where we’re staying. I’d been there briefly on one of my treks but it was good to go and have a proper look round.

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After crossing the bridge we made our way to the canopy walk. It’s a grated walk way that’s approx 27 metres above the ground. It’s great to be up high in the canopy, at the same height as the wildlife.

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A great three days off!!