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BY COLUMNISTS

| Joe Charlebois | Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Norman M. Covert | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Tom McLaughlin | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. |

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The Tentacle


September 28, 2016

Orangutan Birth Highlights A Problem

Tom McLaughlin

Semenggoh Wildlife Refuge, Malaysian Borneo – It is indeed an event when the wildlife center has new orangutan in the form a young baby born on Malaysia Day and my birthday, September 16.

 

Great joy was felt when the mom showed up at the feeding station over the weekend with the young one clinging to her body. Mom, Analisa, aged 20 and baby seemed fine. The sex is undetermined as the young one was held too close to the mom for an identification. The center now has 27 free ranging apes.

 

The head of the group is Ritchie, the dominant male. He is huge. Trees shake, the ground trembles, orangutans fly in every direction to get away from him. They offer him lone status at the feeding stations. He rarely arrives where the food is given out, preferring to eat in the forest, but when he does, he is a marvel to behold. Even the forestry agents who work there are in awe of him as they back away at his presence.

 

Ritchie, however, has too much vim and vigor. He is the father of most of the orangutans in the center and the gene pool as steadily dwindled to where his sons, when they can service a female, are actually making love to a niece or other relative. This is not good for the population.

 

However, to remove Ritchie is not like shooting him with a dart, throwing him into the back of a pickup and taking him elsewhere.

 

First of all a suitable cage has to be brought in, about six meters high and three meters in diameter. It also has to be made of strong steel. Then, one must calculate the amount of tranquilizer needed to fell the animal. This is not easy because very few orangutans have been given a sleeping aide. Too much and the animal dies, too little and you have an enraged ape on your hands.

 

Then you have to find the ape and combing the jungle for the animal is no easy task. Once you find him, you must then tranquilize him and carry him, sometimes many kilometers, to the cage. Then, hopefully if all goes well, a helicopter is brought in and flies him through the air to his new home. There, he is watched as the sedation wears off and he is allowed to explore his new environs.

 

This has been only been done once to George, who had to be removed because he was challenging Richie for dominance in front of the tourists. A lovely brawl took place and with blood and fur and terrified visitors ever where.

 

The thought of a quick vasectomy (their biology is the same as ours) has been brought up, but it is illegal to modify the reproductive ability of an endangered species.

 

It is indeed a wonderful birthday present to have one of these magnificent beasts born on my 65th. I will follow her progress closely and bring some fruit for the feeding station. I at least know that an endangered species is doing well in this wildlife refuge.

 

...Life is good. . . . .

 



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