Friday 19 August 2016 | 1

The world according to orangutans

The world according to orangutans

Mis à jour le 28 April 2019

The story of Jambu is a true story. It is that of a people from the wild who are dying before our very eyes, they who are rich in culture and wisdom that we will lose forever if we do not act. This is the story of the last orangutans of Borneo, driven out of their forests by palm oil farmers and piled into reserves.

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The nest

Through the curtain of orchids in garland, the orangutan gazes anxiously at the horizon of the Gunung Tarak Forest. He sits twenty meters above the ground, completing his nest on the fork of a large branch. His mother showed him at length how to weave the vines and cover her nest with twigs and moss to make her cosy. He even added a roof of branches, in anticipation of the coming rains. Humans have named him Jambu. He is a young male, whose smooth face with dreamy eyes reveals all the sweetness which is characteristic of these people.


Jambu was very lucky. Six months ago, arson burned his whole world. His mother died in the flames with his younger sister and many others. So, for days, Jambu wandered. He walked in the burning ashes, stumbling over the charred bodies of his people, searching in vain for tall trees to climb, but nothing, nothing.

In the distance, trucks were already crowding around the steaming ruins of the forest, while planters were bringing in the first oil palms, trees with unwooded trunks and inedible fruit.

So, Jambu fled as far as he could. He walked and hurt his feet, feet that are so much like hands which were not made to walk on the ground, until he discovered a big orchard of rambutans one evening. All night he ate but when he came back the next night, the peasants welcomed him with rifles. Thirteen fragments of lead shot penetrated his skin. What had he done wrong? He was so hungry and those hairy red fruits were so good! There was enough for everyone. But no. They chased him away. Then, Jambu took refuge at the top of a kempas.


Humans came and they shot him, like the farmers. But when he woke up, he was treated and fed in a very strange closed place. There were humans everywhere, big and small. They made a lot of sounds and gestures, they handled a lot of weird objects, but they were monkeys like him, of a different kind! These humans were nice and not only with Jambu. From the enclosure where he regained his strength, he could see many little orphans. They were also cared for and fed, and even nursed when they were babies.

Gunung Tarak

Time passed and then one day, he was taken to a small crate to release him to another forest. He threw himself on the first trunk, he climbed to the top and discovered a new territory.

The trees are high and compact, the fruits are abundant, the barks are tasty and the beautiful landscape he contemplates from his nest. Vines wrap around the mossy trunks that rise to the sky. Huge branches connect each giant tree to one another, like roads under the canopy of the forest where these orangutans slowly make their passage. There are three females with their young, who team up together.

He watches them pass quietly, moving from branch to branch with thoughtful movements, using their hands and feet to secure their hold. Around them, lighter coloured proboscis monkeys leap from tree to tree. A rhinoceros hornbill with an orange beak greets them with a cry.

There are people here, Jambu thinks. Too many maybe. He also saw young males this morning, he will face them soon, one after another, in fair combat. Meanwhile, it is an old patriarch who serves as a guide to all. He is very old and he was born here.

In the morning, his powerful roar amplified by his goitre gives them all kinds of information. He announces where the ripe fruits of the day are, the big durians, the figs and even the honey when it can be found. Jambu listens and he learns the cycle of blooms. He constructs a complete map of the forest in his head, he observes all around him, he finds the plants that heal and the tender bark that his mother had shown him. He is happy.


But images of flames cause questions in his head that an orang-utan should not have to ask. He sees that things are getting worse, that the real world is shrinking every day a little more, that his people are being decimated, that there are refugees everywhere. Some of them even imitate humans, do laundry, scrape boards, use a hammer or drive a canoe. They lived with men for a long time!

Tonight again, before the sun sets on the misty jungle, Jambu scans the horizon. A shower begins to fall on his cocoon of flowering lianas. Little by little, his fear subsides. No smoke has risen on the horizon today, no fire, no threat. He turns around and rolls into a ball. And he sleeps in peace until tomorrow ...

One Voice asks for recognition of the status of animal persons, for orangutans, there is an an urgency!

Yvon Godefroid
Hr blog

In the subject

Law on restoring nature: the European Parliament has passed an encouraging but weak law One Voice is calling for the European law to restore nature to be passed

Comments 1

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Alex282 | Wednesday 07 June 2017

Magnifique commentaire, il ne peut laisser indifférent sur la situation !!