What I did on my Christmas Vacation

The raison d’etre for our being in Vietnam is best seen through pictures as much as words. This is why I travel with my handy photographer. We have all been to the zoo, some of us feel that we live and work in them.

The Wildlife At Risk project is the anti-zoo. The hoped for result for all of the animals taken under the organization’s wing, or paw, or flipper, is to one day re-integrate the animals back into their natural habitat. Unfortunately, in some cases doing so is not possible. A three legged porcupine who has lost a limb to a trapper would not stand a chance in the wild. Plan B is to allow them to live out their days in comfort and hopefully pass on a strong message to visitors who see them about abject cruelty. In most situations, animals are cleaned up, fed, inoculated and once they have recovered their strength (muscles tend to atrophy when you are a 3 foot monkey kept in a 2 ½ foot cage as a pet for some level of amusement for a spoiled Arab sheik), they get released back into the wild. Yesterday two gibbons and a monkey were trucked 160 kilometers and released into the wilds of a natural reserve, joining the more than 1,200 creatures who have benefited from WAR’s magnanimity. They will integrate with other animals and will be able to live a full, free existence. The two gibbons were named Anna and Annie. They had been ‘adopted’ by visitors to the center who chose to contribute $300 for the pleasure of naming a particular beast. More pitches on how the animals at the rescue center could be better cared for will be forthcoming so get your cheque books ready. The monkey, as best as I could tell didn’t have a name, but I think it was Mickey or Davie.

The gibbons are endangered as a species and are close enough to human to make a monkey to any redneck espousing Creationism.

I wish they were called Gibsons instead of Gibbons. I’d have more fun naming them – Les Paul, SG, Mel. For Gibbons, all I can think of is Ewell.

I have referenced the Moon Bears and Sun Bears in an earlier post. Other residents here include a panoply of otters,

cobras, an 8 foot python, owls, monitor lizards, leopard cats, and pangolins. What is a pangolin, you may ask. Imagine an animal that is part anteater, part aardvark, some armadillo thrown in, with a touch of dinosaur. It is a grey nocturnal creature (hence no pictures yet) that in the wild can eat 500,000 ants a day. Kind of a cute little creature despite itself. It is on the endangered species list and is hunted illegally for food. The meat is sold at upwards of $100 per pound. Please report any pangolin burger stand that you may happen upon during your travels.

The staff here is an incredibly dedicated group of men and women. They work long hours for almost no pay. They clean and tend to the animals with an almost fanatical dedication. The way they clean the cages, clean the serving dishes, select and cut up the food shows a kindness and concern that I have rarely come across in any endeavour. Lori and I have a series of set responsibilities. There are variations each day but much of the work are daily occurrences. We report to the job at 8:00. By then we have been up for at least an hour and a half thanks to the serenades of the local roosters, dogs, birds and most particularly the Gibbon choir. At sunup, they begin anticipating their breakfast. An ever increasing voluminous cacophony builds and builds over 45 seconds to a minute and as soon as it reaches its peak, they stop and silence kicks it. It reminds me of the convulsive, orchestrated ending of ‘A Day in the Life’. I’ve checked all the animals here; there don’t appear to be any Martins.

First chore is cleaning out the bear cages. Fortunately the staff seems to like me and have devised a system to get the bears out of the cages prior to me going in. The food is left in their garden and a trap door is raised that separates their enclosure from the fenced in yard. They go out, trap door is closed, I go in with either Mr. Vu or Mr. Thieu. We then hose down the rinds, corn cobs and other residue. This occurs only after scooping up 4-5 pounds of bear poop per cage. Two thoughts keep climbing into my mind while I am taking care of business. One relates to summer camp. Inevitably, regardless of which camp or which level I attended, instructional swim was always first period after breakfast. It was the least pleasant part of the day, made less pleasant by the time. Same is true for early morning bear feces scraping. The second image that flashes is a rarely referenced Monty Python skit in which a suitor, employed as a toilet cleaner, explains to his prospective father-in-law the potential advancements in his chosen profession. “Next week, guv’nor, they may even give me a brush”. I don’t know why, but as of late, the scene cracks me up.

The rest of the day is divided up with the majority of time allocated to food. This is the only semblance to Judaism that I have seen here so far. We sit in the prep area and cut, chop, and allocate items into individual containers, with each diet carefully prepared by one of the full time staff. Carrots, bananas, corn, apples, papayas, guavas, quail eggs, cucumbers, tofu, onions, and tomatoes form the bulk of the meal. Based on the species, the food is chopped, quartered, served whole or in chunks. Again, the care and selection as provided by the caretakers is nothing short of exquisite.

The gibbons are fed by hand, one piece at a time, the bears, we throw the food into the cages, the iguanas, Mr. Thieu collects crickets from inside some box and we watch them disappear down their gizzards. We leave a frog or two for the python and wish them good luck as we leave.

What is most amazing about the gibbons is their dislike of females (humans, not gibbons). The males are super-aggressive whenever a woman shows up. They screech, grab and thunder around their cages. Lori, as an ex-social worker felt that dealing with alcoholic abusive dysfunctional families would give her a leg up in this situation. Apparently not; they would not even allow her to start a discussion group or explain their feelings and anxieties to her.

One tends to forget that we are dealing with animals here. I took a liking to a particular group of 4 gibbons and felt that we were best of friends. When feeding time at the zoo kicked in, I took it for granted that they would behave patiently as I Doled out the bananas. They did not wait their turns, grabbing and making a monkey out of me.

I then went to feed two of the more docile gibbons and handed them the various hors d’ouvres that we prepared. One of them preferred what was in my left hand to what I was offering with my right. He took a grab at my left wrist which left me with three parallel cuts on the back of my hand. Merely a flesh wound, but I feel like a walking ad for Adidas.

  • darklabstudios
    Posted at 22:00h, 25 December Reply

    read em all, lovin em too. great form with the squeegee bruce. might want to watch that back, conerning quebec's general credo, "c'pas mon job". could hurt the medical insurance. gibbons look like fun monkeys, can you sing along with em?


  • TheVocalVengeance
    Posted at 00:05h, 26 December Reply

    Hello Burnetts!

    Bruce, that's quite a wound you got on your hand!

    Miss you guys!

    love Carly

  • stevo_
    Posted at 12:53h, 26 December Reply

    The monkey should have been called Michael Simpson……but the monkey was way too cute!

  • Andrew
    Posted at 06:30h, 27 December Reply

    Monty Python skit A la mode


    In portraying the humanistic characteristics of the Gibbon monkey, and in particular their fondness, or lack there of for women, what exactly convinces you that they aren't in fact the more advanced species?

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