An Orangutan Has the Last Laugh

In 1989 my husband John Walker and I visited Sarawak , one of the two Maylaysian regions of Borneo, the other being Sabah. We wanted to get to know a bit about the Dayak culture by staying a few days in one of their longhouses, built along the tropical rivers to house their extended families. We made a side trip from the capital of Kuching to the Semenggoh Nature Preserve orangutan sanctuary.

Many of the orangutans had been orphaned. Their habitat was being eroded with the major logging operations. Orangutans were often killed for meat or because the local farmers considered them a threat to their crops. 

At that time sanctuary staff was trying to reintroduce the orangutans into the wild, a very challenging task. We saw the patient handlers trying to get the young ones to learn to climb trees without their mothers’ instructions. Many of the older animals were so used to humans that they obviously preferred our company to their own kind. 

An older British couple happened to be visiting at the same time we were. The distinguished gentleman wore a neat well-pressed safari suit in the oppressive heat. A large female orangutan, very accustomed  to humans, came up to him and extended her hand apparently to shake his. As he reached for hers, she quickly swopped in and, with both hands, pulled down his khaki shorts then laughed uproariously. The shocked gentleman quickly pulled up his pants and tried to regain his composure. The trainer said, “She always does that. We try to watch her, but she really likes it!” Gripping the waists of our pants, we quickly departed to another area of the park, so we wouldn’t become victims of her well-rehearsed prank.

Close Menu