Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sign Language

I wondered at first if this might be considered a Corporal Work of Mercy,
for surely this was an imprisonment. Though she had a beautifully landscaped enclosure, this intelligent creature sat forlornly in the corner, eyes sadly downcast, looking away if someone tried to take her photo. Though I know orangutans generally live alone, I could not help but feel sorry for her boredom.

We put our palms to the glass, yet she didn't respond. We were about to leave when she suddenly climbed to the grating above the window. She took a small twig from her mouth and began to feed it through a tiny hole in the corner of the plate glass. A few people began to gather behind me. What was she doing?

She climbed back down and pointed at my purse and then up again at the hole. She wanted me to give her something through that hole. Knowing I would not as I don't want to get arrested, yet wanting to interact, I began to show her things in my purse. At each item, she'd look, wave it away, and point again to my purse. Finally, I just held the purse up to the window, and she peered in, inspecting more closely than an airport security guard. Indeed, I wondered why they didn't reassign her to these duties. She motioned for me to move over the dividers in my purse so she could see better. She memorized my credit card numbers, hence the creative fundraising the zoo is now employing.

Having found nothing satisfactory, she pointed to William's backpack. He'd brought along clothes and goggles in the unlikely event that on this cold day, the sprinkler park would be open. William did not want an ape going through his things, nor did he want his mother to show the ape his backpack. Still, the orang pointed. Finally, we were able to negotiate showing that the pack contained only clothes. Back to my purse.

By now, a docent told us that "she" was Amber, and was curious. She loved to watch women put on lipstick and see what else you have. And the docent had caught people trying to stick gum and other items through the hole. The ape is very persuasive.

Amber stuck her long arms though a fence behind her and grabbed an even longer stick. She stripped it of side branches, and again gave me a present through the small hole. We sat "talking" to her, forever divided by glass.

"Is she dangerous, mom?" William asked. About that time, Amber yawned, showing very large teeth. I have no answer, and will not have the opportunity to find out. We left, able to call goodbye to her from the outside fence where she could hear us. She looked briefly, then went back to frisking the rest of her audience.


Arby said...

I wonder what would have happened if you had slipped a five spot through the grate.

Cloudia said...

What an extraordinary post!

I commented yesterday before reading your comments at my place. We crossed like ships, but were writing about the same creatures! Synchronicity is a wonderful part of a friendship.

George also sent me a message re: his navy friend - I'll try to help if I can of course.

Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

pita-woman said...

Aww, how cute! I usually end up feeling sorry for the zoo animals as well, and haven't been back for a couple of years.
The closest we ever got to such interaction was at the Cinci Zoo, some smaller monkey kept mimmicking John bouncing up and down and swaying.


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