Updated: Feb 8
The bright sun stayed high in the sky. Nanek told me that she wasn’t used to it being sunny and this cold at the same time. I laughed fondly, as we settled in the shade underneath the gumtrees. There are trees at the very top of our property, but mostly the land is bare and vast. I remarked that this wasn’t exactly a rainforest. Trees take years to grow. I know that, without Nanek having had to have told me. This wouldn’t be a good home for the animals. Nanek informed me, grimly, that there is no news about catching the poachers. I nodded my head and took a sip from the chilled flask of water which I’d brought with us, for the daily walk. We stayed out there for a while, to bask in my day off. Mum and Dad, on the other hand, were working. When we returned to the house, the phone was ringing, to I rushed over to answer it.
“Hello, Jumilah Fioray speaking.”
“Hi, Jumilah,” Reuben replied. “Listen, we’re having another TAG meeting this afternoon, would you and your grandmother be able to join?”
“Of course,” I accepted. “What time is the meeting?”
“Pretty much right now,” Reuben answered. “I’ve emailed you the link, I’ve been trying to get a hold of you.”
“Sorry, we were outside,” I apologised. “I’ll log on now.”
We ended the call. I sat down at the computer, checking my emails. Locating the link, I explained to Nanek that Reuben wanted us to join the TAG meeting, where the fates of the animals would be discussed. No doubt we both felt anxious, at what would be about to transpire. Faces appeared on the screen, more people than had attended the meeting which Reuben had joined when we’d been in the Cocos Islands.
“Hello, thanks for having us.”
“Thanks for joining us, Jumilah,” Christine responded. “I think that we can get started now. We have two main agenda items for today, to discuss the Sumatran sanctuary animals, which a number of us having been preparing a plan in relation to, and then our collection plans for the year.”
She took a breath.
“I’ll hand over to Reuben.”
“Yes, thank you, Christine. Yourself, myself and Sam have been putting together a plan in relation to importing all of the animals currently quarantining in the Cocos Keeling Islands.”
“And that was distributed with the meeting documents.”
“Yes. Are we taking that as read, Christine?”
“Yes, I would be happy with that. Has anyone not read the report and has an issue with that?”
Nobody objected. Christine grinned.
“Good. Well, are there any questions?”
Bill Nevill sat forward in his chair. I glanced at Nanek, but tried to keep it subtle so that nobody would notice, and nobody would be alarmed.
“Yes, Bill,” Christine urged.
“I gather that you’ve consulted with the participating institutions.”
“Yes, we have.”
“And did you consult with anyone else? I, for one, haven’t received a phone call.”
“Placing the animals quickly was our priority.”
“Do you have a problem with that, Bill?”
“Well, not inherently. I just wouldn’t want a predecent being set.”
“These are extraordinary circumstances, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes, I gather that they are.”
“Right, are there any other questions?”
“I did wonder to what extent it’s been determined that importing these animals will be permitted?”
“Yes, I’ve engaged with CITES.”
“I’ve also liaised with the SSP, in relation to breeding, and the Department of the Environment in relation to display animals for ambassador purposes, for the older animals.”
“This is noted within the extended report.”
“There has been a precedent set with the importation of slow loris in the past.”
“Yes, yes, fair enough.”
The meeting fell silent for a moment. Woolworths didn’t have a patch on this.
“Well, if everyone is happy with the plan, we can vote on it,” Christine suggested. “Could I please get a mover?”
Reuben raised his hand.
“And a seconder, please? Preferably someone outside of the sub-committee.”
Claire agreed to, the woman from Dubbo. She actually seems to be relatively young compared to everyone else.
“All in favour?”
Everyone raised their hands.
“That’s carried, thank you. I’ll hand over to Reuben now. We’ve got Jumilah Fioray and Jelita Sitompul with us in this meeting, so it would be good to enlighten them.”
“Thank you, Christine.”
Reuben consulted his notes.
“The Southern Pig-Tailed Macaques, the whole troop, will move to Tasmania Zoo in Launceston.”
My eyes lit up and I looked towards Nanek, who was out of frame of the camera.
“Thank you, David, for making the exhibit place for them in your collection.”
“My pleasure, Reuben.”
I’d visited the zoo before, but those trips would have to become more frequent.
“Thank you, David,” I chimed in, once I’d pulled myself together. “That will be really special to have the troop here in Tasmania.”
“Us Tasmanians have got to stick together, right?” he remarked, with a burly smile underneath his moustache.
“We’re planning on taking on the western tarsiers, but they’re a solitary species. Therefore, on behalf of Taronga Zoo, I would hold it out that if any other institution would like to hold the species, we would be willing to share the animals--.”
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Nanek leaning forward, like she was about to say something. I let out a sound, which interrupted the conversation.
“Yes, Jumilah, did you have something which you wanted to add?” Sam enquired.
“Ah, yes, Nanek just wanted to say something,” I noted.
She shifted her chair closer.
“David, you seem like a lovely man. Thank you for caring for the macaque troop. I think that you’ll grow to be rather fond of them.”
“I’m sure that I will,” David replied.
I could see the sparkle in Nanek’s eyes.
“About the tarsiers,” she added, “do you hope to breed them, Sam?”
“Well, would you recommend that the animals would be in a position for breeding?”
I shuffled my chair back a little, so that Nanek could take up more of the screen.
“Yes, I would like if they were introduced for breeding. The male and one of the females are still relatively young and would be of breeding age.”
“Good. We’ll certainly consider it.”
“I would be happy to take an animal,” Bill chimed in, “although that could thwart your breeding plans. We’re already bringing exotic species into our nocturnal house with the slow lorises.”
“Well, yes,” Reuben agreed, glancing down to consult the list in front of him. “All the slow lorises will be sent to Perth Zoo.”
“With the intention of breeding them?”
“Yes,” Bill confirmed, looking down the barrel of his webcam. “We already have a young male.”
“Three males and two females would be a promising start to a breeding program, if the region chooses to head in that direction,” Christine agreed.
“Are you offering, Christine, to take some in New Zealand?”
“Maybe the next generation,” she conceded.
It was time to move on to the next point of order, the next species to be assigned.
“We’ve got Claire joining us today, from Taronga Western Plains.”
“Yes, hello,” Claire greeted.
“Claire has accepted the white-handed gibbons to be housed on the primate islands, alongside the white-cheeked gibbons Dubbo already houses. We’ve spoken previously about the siamang pair being transferred to Adelaide Zoo.”
“Thank you, I’m happy with that.”
“There’s just one other thing to note, about the remaining dhole group,” Reuben spoke up. “Sam has agreed to take these animals at Taronga Zoo. Obviously, this would be a matter for carnies, but this TAG is handling the importation so I should make a note of that. Sam, can you take that to carnies at your next meeting?”
“Yes, yes, I can.”
“Good, thank you. I believe that’s everything that we need to cover in relation to that particular issue. I’ll hand back to you, Christine.”
“Thank you, do we need a break or can we press on?”
“Let’s press on,” Reuben decided.
That was that. I would have liked a break, for my hurting brain, although I wasn’t in a position to argue. We could have just slipped out of the meeting, but I was intrigued.
“Alright, we’re going to be discussing our collection and breeding recommendation plans for this year. I’ve circulated a document which we’ll be bouncing off.”
“Christine, if you don’t mind, I have to head off soon--.”
“Alright, we can go through the Perth Zoo-related recommendations first.”
She did her best not to seem annoyed, considering that Bill being three hours behind, and five hours behind New Zealand, should have had the most time out of any of them.
“In relation to the orang-utan programs, introducing both females to the male would be advantageous, considering that you’ve got the exhibit space.”
“We do. I would focus on breeding Sekara first, then Pulang.”
Christine furrowed her brow.
“If you look at the documents, we have Lestari down for breeding.”
“No,” Bill insisted. “Lestari needs to learn from her mother first.”
“I’m sorry, we’ll fix that.”
It felt a little awkward. I needed to learn more, before I felt comfortable judging. Nanek had held orang-utans in the past, but I’m not that knowledgeable about their breeding in Australia.
“And just one other thing, we’re down for white-cheeked gibbon breeding privileges this year.”
“Yes,” Christine confirmed. “As soon as the young male is transferred from Adelaide, you’ll be good to introduce and breed. Do you have any foreseeable issues with that?”
“No, no, just confirming,” Bill answered. “See you later.”
He left the call. I felt a little more at ease without him there, although that’s probably unfair. Once the meeting had finished, I felt a little bit of a headache coming on, and was ready for a lie-down. First Nanek and I needed to debrief, because I wanted to make sure this wasn’t overwhelming for her. I wouldn’t have blamed her if it was, learning the fates of each of the animals.
Out the back of our house there is a porch off the loungeroom, which looks out over the property, with a piano wire railing. It’s not a place where we spend much time, too small for hosting but still too beautiful to ignore. I found myself out there tonight, drinking in what I could of the starry sky and the balmy, summer night, as well as a cider. Mum doesn’t like having too much alcohol in the house, but I’d bought it myself and would finish it before she needed to worry that there was any problem whatsoever. Later, I lay in bed, unable to sleep, chest feeling tight like I was drowning underneath concrete. This does not feel resolved. No good thing lasts forever.
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.