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Sam would be flying down for the day. There would be no primate TAG meeting. Mum and I drove out to the airport to meet him. Upon our arrival, I scampered through into the terminal to announce our presence at the freight desk.

“Hello, Jumilah, you have your own vehicle, don’t you?”

“Yes, we do.”

The airport staff member opened the gate, directing Mum where to reverse for ease of transfer. Sam was the first to be allowed off the flight from Sydney, while Mum got out of the truck and the forklifts moved into position. I crossed myself, then turned my attention back to Sam as he approached, grinning.

“It’s good to see you again.” We greeted each other with a hug. “Sam, you remember my mother, Catherine Fioray.”

They shook hands. Three boxes were unloaded from the cargo hold of the plane. Openings were provided for ventilation, albeit covered with mesh so that the gibbons were not able to move themselves out of the crates, nor protrude too much of their bodies which could accidentally get caught, when they were transported by forklift.

“I thought you would look exhausted."

“Well, I haven’t been travelling with them the whole time, just since Sydney.”

Therefore, we made haste for the zoo, three gibbons in tow. None of them had been sedated. Arriving back at the zoo, Laki and Mawar were not the immediate priority. A position had been chosen for release of the gibbons into their new habitat, the exhibit designed with that in mind. Mum, Dad, Sam and I carried the first crate across the moat and into the indoor holding area. Water remained a potential hazard. We repeated the journey with the following two crates, containing Laki and Mawar. The decision had been made not to transport the young pair together. Doing so would have required the creation of a special crate, large enough for two. They didn’t seem to be calling for one another, although I wasn’t sure whether that was a good or bad sign. I found myself chewing on my fingernails, as unhelpful as the nervous behaviour might have been. The gibbons had been through more than I had. I spied that Dad, Tallulah and Luke had made sure that food and water were provided, as the three gibbons would have been hungry. As far as I was aware, they had received some snacks and hydration since leaving Dubbo, although it had been minimal. Especially for the older female, I didn’t want to risk their health.

“Will we be good to let them out?”

I nodded.

“Yes,” I said, just to confirm.

Dad closed the slide, to separate us from the gibbons. Mum raised the slide on the crate, via the pulley system. When she tentatively moved out of the box, I first laid eyes on Josie. She moved more gingerly than I remembered of the young ones. Josie turned and looked over her shoulder, meaning that I could see her face. Even though their profiles differed, she reminded me so much of Ratu. A glance towards Mum indicated she felt the same, but there remained work to be done. For the meantime, we left the crates, with soft wood shavings inside, within the gibbons’ night housing. Hopefully it would help them to settle in. I was grateful that the transfer seemed to have progressed smoothly so far.

“So, you’re opening in one week,” Sam mentioned.

“Yes,” I confirmed with a terrified smile. “We’re all ready, now. Still, it’s hard to believe that it’s real.”

“It’ll be great. Financially, emotionally – it’ll be work, for sure, but you’re already working.”

I took a deep breath.

“You can keep the crates. We’ve talked about that before, haven’t we?”

I nodded.

“Yes, Claire mentioned that,” I confirmed. “Thank you.”

We ambled around the grounds, catching our breath.

“I’ve heard that there’s a gorilla pregnancy at Melbourne Zoo.”

I gasped.


“I mean, it’s just a rumour at this point,” Sam admitted. “Not for sure, I don’t really know.”

I bobbed my head.

“Reuben’s told me that all four females have been mating with Kwabema.”

“If you breed from enough older females, you might end up with twins.”


“It happens with chimpanzees,” Sam explained. “Well, we’ve never had surviving twins. The closest we’ve got was when one survived for about six weeks.”

“That’s a shame.”

I knew that there were other topics to discuss. I took a deep breath.

“We have to give hybrid orangutans the best quality of life they can, until they die. I can’t talk. We bred more of them than anyone. It would only be fitting if we took them back, if we were going to go back into orangutans.”

I understood it was a complicated situation. Considering my lack of experience, I didn’t think that I could judge. Sam’s expression lit up. He wouldn’t have been that familiar with the calls of the white-handed gibbons, but I knew that Dubbo would miss them.

“Did the sanctuary put orangutans back into the wild?”

“My grandparents have done releases in the past, especially of animals they’ve rehabilitated, but which haven’t required long-term homes. There are other sanctuaries which focus more on rehabilitation and release.”

“That’s fair enough.”

I took a deep breath. Since finding out about the tension between Mum and Kakek, I found myself reassessing a few things.

“Does this settle things?”

“Yeah, yeah, it does.”

“What species do you think that you would like to add to the collection?”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Come on, tell me,” Sam urged. “You know, if you want to.”

“I would like to join the Sumatran Tiger program.”

“That would make sense, given your focus.”

I smiled.

“Do you reckon that you could put in a good word for me?”

“Of course,” Sam agreed with a smile.

“We would build out this way, I think.” I gestured towards the flatter ground. “The other way, I’m not really sure about.”

I laughed, raising one hand to shield my eyes from the sun as I pivoted.

“Hopefully we might be able to use the slope over there to our advantage somehow.”

“That would be great.”

We returned to the house for a quick coffee and caramel slice, which Mum had made. I retrieved the skim milk from the fridge, adding a dash for both of us. We sat down at the kitchen table. It felt a little surreal to have Sam in our house. Once we were finished, I drove Sam back to the airport, wishing him a merry Christmas before he got out to catch his flight back to Sydney. In somewhat of a haze I returned home, to the zoo – a term I was still getting used to, but was starting to fit more snugly as the animal collection grew. I let myself into the grounds and into the back-of-house area at the gibbon enclosure. With Josie being an older animal, she would need regular medication. I walked slowly along the corridor. Whilst I feel somewhat familiar with Laki and Mawar, I was still a relative stranger to them. We would need to build up trust, and even more so with the new grand old dame of Acarda Zoo. There was work to do before I could rest. The gibbons watched us closely. We removed the crates, carting them back across the moat and out of the exhibit while the gibbons were safely in their indoor housing. They would remain there overnight, but in future might be allowed out on the island overnight during summer.


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.

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