Eye to eye with the man of the forest

Scuttlebutt has it that the Lombok Wildlife Park is barely hanging on after just reopening and could use our support. Like most people we have mixed feelings about zoos but we want to support Lombok in its rebuilding effort. Plus I’d heard that at certain times a day they bring out an orangutan for a kind of close encounter and knowing that we’ll be seeing orangutans in the wild in a few weeks I’m really excited about that.

We found the park to be in surprisingly good nick. Picture a stroll through a forest path surrounded by tall shade trees and periodically coming upon an exotic bird or animal.

It’s small and intimate but the variety of birds is remarkable and many seem to not be in cages. They just hang out on perches waiting for you to walk by.

At the appointed hour they brought out Hugo, spent a few minutes grooming him and there he sat waiting to meet new friends. Staff motioned for us to step onto his platform.

We soon learned that he his certain preferences. He doesn’t like hats on you, or shoes and he is quite facile at taking them off of you.

Another foible is that he’s very OCD about sitting position, likes his friends around in a circle with a particular pattern of legs and feet and he doesn’t take no for an answer. Aside from that he’s a happy jovial kind of bloke, likes to wrestle, not much of a ladies man, and when he holds you by the arm you can tell he’s feeling deep into your muscles, tissue, and tendons. He never stopped gently squeezing my arm, probing with his finger tips. Yes, it’s a little disconcerting but what a magical half hour we had with him, one on one, eye to eye, man to, and I have to say it, man of the forest.

The head animal keeper walked with us for a while and told us how the animals became very unsettled before the first tremors and when the quakes started they grew quite stressed and all the birds flew away. The keeper’s own house was “finished” when the big one hit and he moved his family into a tent in the park for safety and so he could be there full time to help calm and comfort the animals who he thought of as his extended family. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he told of his joy when the birds came back one by one, and although the park needed extensive repair the animals were less stressed with his family there. 

The park has a calm peaceful atmosphere, like taking a magical walk under a canopy of shady trees, but at least for a while we could forget the struggle going on just over the hill in Medana Bay, and I’ll always remember being eye to eye with the man of the forest.

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