If you’ve read my blogs in the past, you know that I write a great deal about the connectedness between animals and humans. Whether it is witnessing a beautiful whale in an ocean, swimming with dolphins, or bonding with the family dog or cat, there is an unspoken relationship we have with animals that is sometimes quite awe-inspiring.
And occasionally an incredible image from humankind’s connection to animals emerges that captures the interconnectedness of all beings who inhabit the earth. One that caught my eye recently is this story from Borneo about a man and an orangutan (CNN Story here).
In an orangutan wildlife habitat created to protect these beautiful and nearly extinct creatures, reports emerged of venomous snakes in a river, which could pose a threat to the orangutans. A wildlife conservation officer was sent to capture the snakes. While wading in the river, his foot became stuck under a log and he spent several minutes struggling to free himself in a fast current.
As the man was struggling, amateur photographer Anil Prabhakar snapped several photos that have gone viral on social media. The orangutan, for three-to-four minutes, appeared to offer an outstretched hand to the man while he was struggling.
Along with thousands of others, I found the image touching and inspirational. Despite what should have been a natural inclination to avoid humans (those who have threatened the very survival of the orangutan species), this beautiful orangutan chose to respond with a gesture of compassion to help another struggling creature in need.
Image Credit: @anil_t_prabhakar (Instagram)
This photo also reminded me of some personal experiences that I’ve had alongside beautiful creatures such as chimpanzees (that I’ve written about in a previous blog circa 2018). As a student at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, I volunteered, through my sociology class, to observe behaviors of a variety of mammals at the local zoo. We were asked to observe each pair of specific mammals for at least 20 minutes, keeping a log of the distance between each member of each pair and noting when the distance changed during each observed session.
On my first visit, I instantly became fascinated by observing the chimpanzees. In hopes of getting their attention, I pretended to apply lipstick and powder my face to some of the chimpanzees in the enclosure. I noticed a female chimpanzee became fascinated by my routine and came to watch. That was the start of a special experience.
The next time I visited the chimpanzees, the female immediately sat down in front of the glass as I pulled my compact out of my purse and showed her reflection. I tried to engage the young male, but it was his counterpart whose attention he wanted.
In order to engage both chimpanzees, my professor gave me rubber toys that I could show them both and suggested I speak with the zookeepers. They taught me some hand signals and gave me toys and activities that would entertain them both. In the end, of course, that skewed my data. After all, I was supposed to be watching and recording behavior, not interacting. It did not matter to me though, as I enjoyed the time spent with them. Like the orangutan in the photo above, these chimpanzees desired for connection, and it was special to be a part of their lives, even it was just for a few days.
What are some of your most special experiences with animals? When have you witnessed the beauty of animals in nature, at a conversation park or even in your hometown?
© 2020 Tyra Manning