AN UNFORGETTABLE VISIT TO THE AUCKLAND ZOO.
Some 40 years ago my wife and I had taken our three children to the zoo and we were standing beside the barrier watching a very large orangutan. He was sitting in a corner of his cage leaning against a wall with a cigarette in his hand.
I was particularly surprised by the size of his upper arms. They must have been at least 15cm in width. Nearby lay a car tire. Yes a tire, not just a tube. The tire was there for him to exercise and play with. Just imagine trying to stretch an actual tire.
However as we watched transfixed by the magnificence of the animal, our attention was diverted to a chap in very colourful and short shorts. He began talking to the orangutan in an unusually loud voice and then he jumped the safety barrier and moved the 2 metres or so to the cage proper.
He began haranguing the animal to move and when there was no response from the orangutan he put his hand and forearm between the bars of the cage so that he could poke it.
Suddenly the orangutan shot out a foot and held the chap. Then he began drawing him into the cage so that the chaps shoulder was pulled tightly against the bars.
No calling from the Australian now. He was in a desperate struggle to pull back away from the animal. To get more leverage the chap had moved his feet up off the ground and was pushing off a concrete wall which was at the same height as the cage floor.
I must confess I was transfixed and didn’t offer any assistance, partly because it had happened so quickly and partly because I expected the chaps arm to be pulled off.
With one hand the animal drew the chaps hand toward his mouth. Using his other hand the orangutan took the chaps index finger and forced it straight. It opened its mouth to its full width displaying large stained teeth and drew the finger into its mouth..
I had no doubt that if the chaps arm didn’t come off, he was going to at the least, loose a finger.
The Australian was now really putting effort into his struggle to escape when suddenly the animal let him go.
The chap shot backwards and crashed back against the safety fence. Immediately he jumped to his feet, hurdled the safety fence and at what must have been his full pace ran up through the zoo grounds and out of our sight.
I looked at the animal and I swear it was laughing. Its eyes were glistening and it looked directly back into mine. It seemed to be smiling.
I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the orangutan had decided to teach the chap a lesson and I also have no doubt whatsoever that it succeeded brilliantly.