Richard and Pat Field meet the Mild Lady of Borneo  

Hello, I'm Mimi
I'm 96.4% human, don't you know!


DROPPING IN TO SAY HELLO:  Mimi and her baby have heard her close relatives from England have arrived, so it's time to come and make friends.

                                                                                   By Richard Field

It's always nice visiting close relatives so we were particularly looking forward to seeing Mimi and her new baby on our recent visit to Borneo at the end of our trip from Australia to Asia.

A fascinating fact is that these gentle primates share 96.4% of the same DNA as humans - so they really are our closest relatives and it was going to be interesting to see how much the two of us really do have in common.

Mimi and baby live with other orang utans in the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabiliation Centre at Sepilok in northern Borneo. The orang utans are brought here from the wild because they have been orphaned, injured or displaced and would be unlikely to survive if left unattended.  Hopefully most, after a period of rehabilitation, will be returned to the 4,294 hectare virgin jungle reserve and resume a normal life.

We timed our arrival at Sepilok for 10 o'clock in the morning. That's one of two feeding times, and orang utans are smart enough to  keep an eye on their watches and turn up in time for a nutritious snack of bananas and milk laid on by the rehabilitation centre wardens.

Quite soon there was movement in the surrounding trees and our friends began to arrive. Mimi and baby were among the first.

Sadly there was no hug or handshake for us. We were advised that touching them could prove fatal.  This is not because there is a shortage there of aspirins, Rennies and gargle here but because orang utans are prone to human diseases and they are not always treatable. So we kept our distance.

Mimi and baby had good appetites and were soon tucking into their breakfast.  Mimi, like all orang utans, was gentle and shy so turned her back on us as she ate. Perhaps she thought we would be critical of her table manners. More likely she just wanted a bit of privacy at such moments.

After her snack which lasted about 15 minutes Mimi decided it was time to leave. Maybe the baby was late for orang utan play school. She turned her head briefly to us and quickly clambered up the nearest tree and then, with baby clinging on tight, swung gracefully and swiftly away back into the jungle.

It was sad to see them go, but it was wonderful to think that they, and the other rehabilitating orang utans, have been saved and hopefully the species, our closest animal relatives which were once on the point of extinction, should be safe and secure for the future.

ORANG UTAN FACTS:  Name:  'Orang Hutan' is their native name which literally translates into English as 'People of the Forest'. Weight: Males 50 to 90 kilos, females 30 to 50 kilos; arm spread 2.2 metres.  Habitat: Borean orang utans are exclusively aboreal and live in the tree tops. They have four hands and no feet to facilitate swinging through the tree tops. Each night they construct a nest in a tree top as their bed. They cannot swim. Food: Mostly fruit, leaves, bark, buds and flowers. Reproduction: Males reach maturity at 15 years of age, females at 8. Gestation takes 9 months.. Weaning occurs around 3.5 years.



Photos: Richard Field in Borneo