1 | Part 2
by N. Sivasothi
Drawings by Kelvinski Humchnek & Gaufridus
Reign of Terror
The new honours class lodged at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park during
their honours field trip in June. Within a day, the primate hierarchy
was established. Most of the class stood at the top of the rung,
then came the macaques, followed by less aggressive members of the
field trip and then finally, the Silvered-Leaf Monkeys.
Those among us who were intimidated were epitomised by the sole lad who
stayed alone at the park one afternoon. He opened his door only to find
a macaque raiding his dustbin. Terrified, he slammed his door shut (presumably
before the macaque had him for lunch) and kept to his room to avoid confrontation.
On another occasion, three girls returning from the shower discovered
that their futile efforts at scaring the monkey seemed only to invite
its attentions and they backed off as the unimpressed animal glowered
at them with raised eyebrows.
To establish its disdain for the residents of the park, the macaques raided
the dustbins with monotonous regularity. The sight of overturned dustbins
and its rudely scattered contents greeted us each say as we returned from
our field trips. By the third day, this gathered little or no comment
from the resigned victims.
We were betrayed by the cat that we had always treated with warmth and
affection, though. It displayed its solidarity with its fellow non-human
one evening by sitting companionably next to the monkey while it scattered
the contents of a dustbin.
The Silvered-leaf monkeys were docile compared to the macaques but even
they occasionally did upset some of us; though quite unintentionally.
The chap who barricaded himself against the marauding macaque was frightened
out of what wit he had left (which explains his present condition) when
these monkeys walked all over the roof of his hut. The sound was amplified
through the roof which he mistook for a plot by the macaques to tear the
hut down! The other victims of the Silvered-leaf monkeys were observing
a group of them at Bt. Melawati when droplets of water landed amongst
them. It took them a few seconds before they realised that the monkey
directly above them was urinating. Shaking off their drowsiness, they
scampered for shelter.
In all honesty I must add that the macaques were not the only source of
damage in the park. A group of excited honours students managed to destroy
a bed between them. We were worried until told by the park authorities
that it was a frequent phenomena. This I could believe for as I tried
to leave my hut quietly at 5 or 6 am each morning for a walk, my bed would
announce this to the state of Selangor.
Back to Basics
When I stayed at Bako National Park in Sarawak last year, macaques also
figured prominently in the lives of the residents at the reserve. We had
to make an effort to lock all the doors for the monkeys were always watching
us! The moment someone makes a mistake, the nearest macaque races to the
door when your back is turned, opens it and conducts a lightning search
for food before racing away. Such incidents were common and are usually
announced by the screams of outraged victims. The other residents would
then be treated to a sight of flailing fists and a string of swear words
which varies with nationality.
people first arrive at the park, many are quite delighted to see the monkeys
hanging around on the trees next to their bunks - 'close to nature' and
all that sort of thing. This appreciative view is rather quickly turned
to one of murderous intent. You see, people bring their own food to Bako
and the new arrivals are not aware of the food-pinching habits of the
monkeys. The monkeys on their part are fully aware that new visitors are
easy meat and wait expectantly when these people walk up to their chalets.
As they put their things down and turn to fit their key into the door,
the monkeys gleefully strike. When we arrived, we were startled by the
sight of a woman who was cursing and swearing at a pair of monkeys which
had succeeded in stealing the biscuits she had brought all the way from
England. When she turned around to greet us, however, she was polite and
dignified. The abrupt change in personality was not reassuring and we
mumbled greetings as we entered our room, darting sidelong glances at
her. Later, we got used to it. In fact when one of my pals suddenly scrambled
over the balcony to pursue a macaque one evening, few of us were startled.
to Part 2