Is it my Western impatience, or the urgency of wanting to tell this story, or film-maker wanting to work impatience, or little kid wanting adventure impatience, or is it the confluence of all those? I’m not certain, but ten days of quarantine, while we make certain neither Tracy or I carried in some pathogen, is a test of patience.
It became a greater test yesterday as the orangutan rescue team went out to check on an orangutan reported trapped in an area being cleared for… wait for it,… what else,… palm oil. What they found we later saw in the photos (deep breath, patience) was a small, maybe four year old orangutan. The little red ape was too small to be immediately release, so returned to the Yayasan IAR center for a couple weeks observation before release. Not that this was the first, nor will it be the last, rescue. It wasn’t even a crazy dramatic rescue, but it was a missed opportunity. As Tracy and I stared at the images on the back of the camera on which the action was recorded, we both kept looking at one another with that – ok, deep breath, patience – look.
The quarantine period, ten days once you’re in Indonesia (not just here at the YIAR Center) is necessary, and I fully support Dr. Karmele Llaño Sanchez’s decision to enforce it; no one is the exception, not even her. It, along with the other list of medical requirements she enforces, is why I hold her standards up as the model I wish all sanctuaries, with any of the great apes, here or in Africa, would institute. There’s constant discussion in the media and medical circles about disease transfer from animals to humans (zoonosis), but far less emphasis is placed on the transfer from humans to wildlife. Think of the laundry list of diseases we humans have shipped, flown and cough across this planet. With great apes we share so much of our genetics, perhaps non-human great apes are the ones to most fear a global pandemic brought on by us.
So, ok, deep breath, we can be patient, only three more days — after all we have that luxury, that newly rescued four year old, whether facing palm oil or pathogen doesn’t have patience on its side.