It started raining in the night and continued into the afternoon – this is the start of the monsoon season, after all. So it was a damp group that hailed a handful of taxis this morning and sped off to a clinic in the town – since orang-utans are extremely sensitive to human diseases, we had to get health certificates from a local doctor confirming that none of us had colds, coughs or flu. The taxi drive became an adventure in itself for one group of four YEPs: when they mimed that they wanted to go to a doctor for the orang-utans, he delivered them to a veterinary clinic!
General visitors don’t need certificate; we needed one as we’re being allowed closer to the these animals than the public usually are, because this is one of the Borneo programme’s Act project – we’re there to assist at the sanctuary, not simply look at the animals. The Sepilok sanctuary is a peaceful place set in lush jungle and surrounded by towering, vine-covered trees. A long, circular boardwalk snakes through the jungle, in between overgrown bush and tall trees, leading to viewing and feeding platforms. The jungle is surprisingly noisy – low hoots from some of the monkeys, screeching insects and loud birds calls.
Sylvia, the sanctuary’s manager, had plans for us: to spend the next two days dismantling an unused feeding platform deeper in the forest. But she underestimated the energy and enthusiasm of these YEPs (and Mike…). After a great deal of banging and crashing, the platform had been demolished and the wood stacked – a two-day job was completed in under two hours. But the YEPs weren’t the only ones doing the exploring … While the team was at work, several leeches slithered into socks and up trouser legs, to latch on and become engorged with blood. Our doctor, Mark, distinguished himself as the leech collector – he scored two!