Updated: Jun 26, 2022
This morning when I woke up, I rolled over and checked my phone. I’d slept in a bit, so Mum and Dad would have already left for work. I managed to fill the morning at home. Eventually, I worked up the courage to ring Reuben.
“I would be agreeable to that. You’re not the only one wanting the board’s attention.”
“Well, who else is there?”
“There’s Mick Sutton, firstly. He was in the primates meeting the other day.”
“You know, I love coming to the TAG meetings and I’m very, very grateful that everyone welcomes me, but I don’t have to, if it’s awkward.”
“As a matter of fact, we are having a special general meeting this Thursday. I would love for you to come if you can.”
“That works for me.”
We joined the TAG meeting, and Reuben had news of his own.
“Today, our silverback gorilla has gone to the dentist. We’re anticipating that he may need a root canal, but he’s expected to make a full recovery. What I did want to speak about is the potential of shaking up our group before the end of the year. I would like to bring in a new silverback from overseas, if the studbook keeper agrees.”
“What would be your plan for your existing silverback?” Sam wanted to know.
He must be the gorilla studbook keeper.
“I would like to be able to retire him to Werribee Open Range Zoo, Des is agreeable with that plan,” Reuben explained. “We’ve discussed it outside of this meeting.”
“I’m sorry, you don’t get to make that plan.”
“We had spoken before about needing to schedule a gorilla review at some stage,” Christine recalled. “Would next week be alright for that?”
Everyone agreed, so the meeting was able to move on.
“I see that we don’t have a representative from Perth Zoo today.”
“Well, yes, that doesn’t surprise me,” Gerard spoke up. “Permai’s gone into labour. It’s just a matter of time, now.”
I beamed, heart thudding with excitement, that could be heard all the way away in Perth.
“Our gorilla, Nzuri, turned two on Saturday.”
“That’s the same birthday as my mother.”
“Oh, that’s lovely. I didn’t know that.”
“Well, Mum was forty, so she’s a little older.”
“Wow, Catherine’s forty,” Reuben remarked. “My goodness, we’re old.”
“You really are,” I quipped, although my grin confirmed that I was only joking.
“We’ve been able to introduce our macaques.”
“That’s really good.”
“It is, it’s great.”
I trust David, he’s taking good care of Nanek’s animals.
“Is there any general business?”
“Yes, and I’m sorry, I thought this was an agenda item. The ZAA has had a submission from an Australian citizen currently residing in the United States of America who wishes to bring exotic animals he has been caring for over there into the country. Some of the animals are primates.”
“As you would know, the endorsement of this committee would, according to Australian law, have a significant impact on whether the government authorities choose to allow the import permits.”
“Do we have a rundown on what species we’re talking about here?”
“They are mostly ungulate species.”
“Well, then, that’s not our problem.”
“There are some primate species – red-handed tamarins and cotton-tops, black-capped capuchins.”
“The region could certainly do with more red-handed tamarins,” Raffa chimed in, with a smile.
“Well, that’s not all our decision.”
“Yes, I know. This is a matter for each TAG to ponder.”
Christine sipped her tea.
“Let’s all have a think about it, and call it a day for today.”
The TAG meeting had given me a lot to think about. It certainly didn’t help my nerves, listening them discuss the man in America. I’d love to be thinking of myself as abundantly compassionate, but I couldn’t help but see our story in his. Sure, there are differences, as was highlighted. I’d like to argue that it’s not really that distinct – Nanek could have placed her animals in Indonesia. She even would have been closer to them. Nanek would have been able to honour Kakek’s legacy by continuing with the sanctuary; she might have been able to get some of them back. Mum and Dad returned home from work.
“Did you have a good day?”
Mum started putting the dinner on.
“Oh, I made a call this morning. We’ll be able to put your name on the papers.”
“Thank you,” I gushed, breathing out.
I wrapped Mum into a hug.
“There is one catch, though,” she noted, and I withdrew.
“Alright,” I agreed. “I’ll do whatever you need.”
Possibilities raced through my mind. I’d sign paperwork, sure. I figured that would probably be part of it.
“You’ve got to offer consideration. That means payment. You have to pay me one dollar in order to become a co-owner of this land.”
I fetched a one-dollar coin, which I handed over to Mum. She beamed.
“Thank you, joint tenant,” Mum accepted. “Alright, now you’ve got to eat some dinner.”
We walked through to the kitchen table with our bowls, setting them down and sitting down. The three of us ate dinner in relative silence, all returned to what it used to be, only a month or so prior. After dinner, I went outside, into the darkness, to have a look up at the moon. It was a full moon, bathing our property in white light. I love the quiet of this place. Would a zoo change things? Of course it will. I remember the noises of the forest, the sounds of Nanek and Kakek’s sanctuary. It wouldn’t be exactly the same, but I could dream. As I came back in, I swayed from side to side. I was only drawn out of my continued restlessness, when I reentered the house and could hear my phone ringing. Answering the call, I scampered into my room.
“Hello,” I greeted Tallulah. “I know that it makes us old, but it’s kind of nice talking on the phone.”
“Yeah, it is,” she agreed. “I’ve had the most marvellous last twenty-four hours or so, let me tell you.”
“So, is Kyle your boyfriend now?”
“Well, yeah, I think so,” Tallulah answered. “He’s a good guy, Jumilah, he’s gentle and he’s kind and he could have his pick of any girl. It was really special of him to include me in the celebrations last night.”
“I’m pleased you have had such a beautiful time.”
Before I went to bed, I checked my emails.
Your Individual Subscriber membership to ZAA has been approved; read the subject line to the first email.
I smiled as I opened up the email, scanning my eyes down as I scrolled through links and information.
Jumilah Fioray is a recent high school graduate from lutruwita, Tasmania. Her parents, Catherine and Adriano Fioray, met at the University of Melbourne in the 1990s and returned to Hobart after finishing their degrees, where they raised their daughter and worked in agriculture. Jumilah's passion for conservation reflects her grandparents' work running a sanctuary in Sumatra.
Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey has long had a passion for the weird and the wonderful of stories, sport and zoo animals. 'From the Wild' is her first anthology.