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What It's All About!

Yesterday, Miki and I had an amazing experience that reminded us exactly why we are doing this crazy challenge!

Whether you love them or hate them, zoos are undeniably powerful in drawing people in and educating them about animals and the situations many are facing in the wild. As such, we had initially planned to approach zoos here in order to find out what kind of support they could offer the Pongo Hogo Hogo Challenge this year. Chiba Zoo seemed as good a place as any to start, being the closest and, more importantly, the home of two quite endearing characters - Futoshi and Nana - two orangutans that were born in Yokohama Zoo and Chiba Zoo respectively.

For Miki and I, it was our first time to meet real orangutans since deciding to do this challenge. For the past year both of us have read almost everything there is to read on these guys and seen just about every documentary that has ever been made! But nothing really prepares you for that first, initial live encounter. Ours yesterday was with Futoshi who swung down from his perch above to sit with us at a viewing window off to the side of his enclosure. Unlike humans, orangutans do not seem to make eye contact with each other very often at all, as it was with Futoshi yesterday. While he may have been sitting next to us, first impressions seemed to suggest that he really had no interest in us at all, more content to be looking away at a child in the distance or the lemurs next door. It was something that definitely affected his popularity with the crowds, as we overheard more than once, visitors saying that he looked bored when he turned away from their clicking cameras or from them, as they peered often 5 at a time into his window. However rather than leave with the others, we sat and stayed chatting to each other while we waited for our meeting. It was at these moments that we became aware of his ever so slight movements; a glance down at our hands next to his at the glass, a glance up to our faces when we weren't looking, before returning his eyes to something further a field. While direct eye contact may not be that common, it is through such cursory glances that the majority of information is taken in and for the thirty minutes that we spent there yesterday, it really seemed as if he had gotten a good feel for us by the end. For us too, we reluctantly went to our meeting feeling that we were leaving something much more than simply another animal. As Miki said afterwards, it was more like leaving a person.

The distinction between 'us and them' is a broad one that often fails to take in the things that make certain animals amazingly special. The orangutan is one that too often and too easily falls into the 'them' category by definition of its being an animal, however it is one that I think resembles much more closely, us. Next time you find yourself at the zoo, devote some of your time to sitting with the orangutans rather than simply clicking the camera and moving on. Don't stare. Just be there and see what happens. I wonder how you will view your experience then? It would be something we'd love to hear about either way!

posted by Mick and Miki Tan @ 5:46 PM, ,

We are on Facebook!

Pongo is now on Facebook thanks to Kasumi Mizoguchi and Hiroko Yamamoto! Thanks you two! That would have taken us into our next lives to complete!

posted by Mick and Miki Tan @ 7:54 PM, ,