gorgeous baby orangtan

Zac Mills

Diary of a young Sumatran orangutan

Armstrong's diary - a memoir

By Yousif Abdelaal-Wait, aged 9 ½

SOS note: This story was sent to us by a boy who wrote this story to shine a light on the plight of orangutans. He was studying deforestation at school, but felt so compelled by the topic and the orangutans' plight, that he started to do his own research into what is happening to orangutans on the ground in Indonesia. This is what he wrote, hoping to inspire other young people to share his passion for these wonderful animals:

Day 1 - I lay in the branches quietly, letting the warmth of the hot sun shine over me. I think about Ma deep in the forest, gathering food – young leaves and juicy fruits. Where is she? Normally, Ma would have been back ages ago.

Suddenly, my deep thoughts are starting to become worries. Is she alright? Is she coming back? Where could Ma be? Ma is coming. Ma will come, I promised myself, trying to keep calm. But I was not calm. I started to squirm around in my tree. I couldn’t keep still. Ma will come. Ma will come. Ma is alright. Prickles of fear shot down my legs, making me want to run. I told myself Ma was alright, desperately wishing for her to come. But those thoughts were just me, me being optimistic. Before I could stop myself, I sent out a warning hoot, which echoed through the dark night, the trees carrying it far, far away. There was no answer. Panicking, I leapt out of my tree, and ran. I ran for my life, I ran for Ma. I ran for Ma’s life. I ran until I heard the noise. I ran until I heard and smelt the dreaded thing. Then, I stopped dead.

Sniffing the air cautiously, I smelt smoke. That was the first hint of it. Then I heard the crackling. Both of those pointed to the same thing – the flames of fire. I stood still on the spot, my breathing heavy. I heard a noise above the sound of crackling flames. It made my heart ache. Tears came into my eyes, and I screeched for her. I screamed for my beloved Ma. There was a screech back, coming from deep in the forest, one that told me she was in great pain. I began to run again, screaming wildly for her. But there was no answer. The only noise which grew louder and louder was the crashing of trees falling to the ground and hungry streaks of fire moving along to find another tree to gobble up. Then I ran. I ran, I ran, I ran. Crash, crash, crash. Run, run, run. Crash, crash, crash. Run, run, run. Then I could run no longer. I felt the explosion in my head and then felt lights buzzing around in circles. The last thing I had seen was a monstrous tree falling towards me. Then – a deadly silence.

Day 4 - I woke up this morning, light turning round and round in my head. At first, I was too dizzy to stand up, and I just stared up at the cloudy, grey sky. My home – it was all gone. And the most troubling thing of all – Ma was gone.

I begged her to appear next to me, to be in her warm, furry arms back in the forest. But I knew already that I had lost my beloved Ma, the only relation I had ever have, all my life. I closed my eyes, and thought. I let the bees buzz in my head, stinging me painfully, and I thought. I thought of my lost home, my beloved rainforest, and Ma, who was queen of my life, a loved, old friend who had always looked after me. Then the pain hit me in the stomach. I clutched at my stomach, and its wounds, which had probably come from the falling tree. I was so hungry that I nearly fell back into darkness, the world of yellow stars flying through a passage of complete darkness. I was so hungry, I willed myself to get up and find some food, but I could find nothing except dry mud everywhere, and big tracks from murderous, tree-killing machines.

As I was about to close my painful eyes again, I spied something in the distance. It was something that made my stomach ache more than ever. It was a farmer’s crops, with rows and rows of plants, which had sprung up beautifully. I wanted more than anything to eat, so I unwillingly tried to make my thin body walk over to it. But I was so weak, I had to crawl instead. It caused me great pain, but eventually I got there. I fell on top of the plants hungrily, eating as many as I could. Then, it happened. The whizzing stones from a slingshot hit me all over my body, then a bang of a rifle. I fell weakly, and the bullet whizzed past. Then I sat back up, only to face a red, deadly bullet flying towards me. I ducked petrified, but a little differently this time. The bullet stuck in my eye, and a few more hit my arms and legs. Then I fell upon the plants, not because of hunger but because of my unconsciousness.

Day 5 - I woke up with a scream. I was in the middle of a field, far away from any crops.

Sitting up and crawling around in circles on hands and knees, I thought about the farmer who had taken out his anger on me by shooting me. My arms and legs were painful from the wounds the bullets had made and also from back when my home was lost. Rubbing my half-closed eyes sleepily, I noticed a small vehicle in the distance, moving along a dirt track. Was it one of those machines that spat fire? I trembled with fear at the thought, as it came closer. I gave a hoot of relief when it stopped a few metres away. It wasn’t one of those monsters, it was just a big lorry, carrying logs on the back of it. Maybe it was from my old home. Thinking it might take me back home, or to some type of forest with food and shelter, I crawled on to the back and lay down as it began to move off along the track, bumping along noisily.

Day 6 - I opened my eyes and saw complete darkness.

In fright, I scrabbled around for some way of escape desperately. Finally, a big pile of tied up logs fell off the truck, and I swung through the gap stiffly, before I gasped at the sight.

There were rows of houses and tall buildings towering above me, with windows that stared down at me, making me uncomfortable. Whimpering, I darted off into the road, where jeeps rumbled along the path and motorbikes roared along, people clinging to them, squashed up, as if they were part of the motorbike itself too. People walked along narrow, rocky paths, most carrying baskets, which I presumed, had food in.

In my excitement, I rushed over to a woman with a basket, before I could stop myself. But luck was not on my side. The old lady hobbled away, screaming in a hoarse voice. Then, a few people chased me down the road throwing rotten fruit at me, as a jeep sped nearer from within the crowd. I looked them anxiously, jerked my head back to the front of me, and trudged away dragging my arms heavily, hooting for mercy as I went. I moved for hours on end, it seemed, before I finally managed to lose them. I had managed to get ahead a bit, dart across to the opposite street, jump over a few gates, turn this way and that, slip into a side street, and slide under the guttering of the roof, which angrily poured water on my head. Hot tears came into my eyes. I just wanted my home, my freedom. I wanted the cosy arms of Ma; I wanted to be back up in my tree, in my nest. I wanted to be somewhere where I could feel free. Now I felt lonely and lost on a different planet. Hooting dismally, I put my blood-stained, dry hands under the dirty, hot water. Knowing that although it was dirty, I needed to drink something, so I put it to my mouth slowly, thinking of poor Ma, who lay dead somewhere far, far away, maybe even in another country.

Suddenly, I felt tired. My eyes wanted to close, and I wanted to just be swallowed up by the wall and disappear forever. Maybe I would never get my freedom. Maybe I would always be trapped, just an unwanted, lonely, orangutan far from home. Sadly, I climbed into one of the bins and ate a small, unsatisfying meal of orange peels and fungi stuck to the inside of the paper. I licked my hands, letting tears pour down my face. I wanted to stay in the bin. I wanted Ma. I wanted my old life back. Nothing good would ever happen in this state. With one heavy sigh, I fell asleep.

Day 8 - I screamed as the arms carried me away, back into the city. Where was I? Could I be dreaming? Who was this carrying me?

Whoever it was, I didn’t want them to. I hooted at them quietly, willing them to put me down. But it was no use. They just held me firmly in their arms. There was no way of escape. I would never escape these people. I would never, ever get my freedom. I didn’t have a hope. Everybody else did, but not me. I would never have a single chance, not in my whole life.

Now, I am swinging in the trees happily, munching plants and fruit.

Although it was not my true home, it was a new hope. It was a new day, a new life, but once again, a happy one. I think of Ma and my old rainforest, all the animals of the jungle alive, wildlife surrounding me. Now I live in a newly replanted and growing rainforest. Ma may not be here, but she will always be with me. She will always see me and I will always see her. She may not be hooting right next to me, but in my heart, deep in my soul, she lies, hugging me. I feel her warm arms curling around me, back what seems a long time ago, but is actually just a week ago. Now other orangutans surround me, what I can call friends. It’s like my old home. Ma is still with me, the animals of the jungle surround me, and wildlife is above and below me. I’m happy. I have everything. But best of all, I have back what I love most of all, along with Ma, and the environment of the rainforest. And that – that – is my freedom.

©2017. By Yousif Abdelaal-Wait, aged 9 ½

Inspired by Gill Lewis, Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

26th March 2017


By Yousif Abdelaal-Wait, aged 9 ½

Zac Mills

An adult sumatran orangutan

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