The ropes dangle in the glass enclosure housing a group of orangutans (a species of orange ape from Borneo and Sumatra). Long-armed and spry, the smaller animals swing recklessly – doing the ultimate monkey bar maneuver: gently gliding along the ropes with bodies seemingly full of ping-pong balls.
A figure sits at the window leaning on the glass. A small girl notices and sits, touching the glass with her hand.
The old ape slightly lifts her hand as if touching skin-to-skin through the glass with long fingers that seem capable of breaking a coconut, but the look in her eyes says she couldn’t harm a flea.
On the jungle-gym structure at the back of the enclosure, a young orangutan gets orange juice from a bucket with a plastic cup, which he holds in his hand. He takes a few sips and sticks his hand in the cup making the juice turn a murky brown. Then with hand in cup, he pretends to get it stuck – as if doing the foot-stuck-in-bucket routine – waving the cup around on his hand and making false attempts to pull it out. With no success, he makes his way up the jungle-gym directly behind old orangutan and girl. Sitting for a moment, he miraculously frees his hand from the cup while observing the touching interaction at the glass.
Not wanting to be upstaged, he starts rolling back and forth over a bench, popping his head up towards the larger crowd that gathers behind the little girl. Totally frustrated at not being the centre of attention, he ponders his situation for a few moments and then hurls the plastic cup at the back of the old orangutan, striking her in the head. She reacts with a slight twitch and continues to stare out the window at the girl and people beyond.
Young punky monkey seems to laugh through his eyes: he feels better.
Angry, I want to whack him in the head, but I could only stare at him with a look of: “if I could get inside the enclosure, you’d have a fight on your hands, buddy!”
He saunters off, dragging his gangly arms along the ground with his head held high, towards the other side of the jungle-gym.
Old orangutan is tired.
She slowly rises and moves to the ragged towels and blankets strewn on the straw in the corner. She picks up the pieces of cloth, places and carefully smooths them out while adjusting herself on top, and cradles a bundle of towel and straw in her arms as if it is a soft stuffy toy.
“It’s time to go,” I say to the little girl.
Walking away, we take a last look at the content orangutan…