Updated: May 22
It was a little warmer inside the council building than outside, which made me slightly less nervous. Once I had closed the door again behind me, I approached the desk as the receptionist glanced up to greet me with a smile.
“You’re back again,” she noted, while I tried to remember her name.
I had been to this place enough, but I was usually in a hurry. Sure enough, I was still in a hurry, but one part of the battle had been won. With rezoning secured, it was time to obtain planning permission, to build the exhibits which we needed to, so that we had the hope of one day obtaining a licence to house animals in those enclosures.
“Yes,” I confirmed with a grin. “We would like to apply for planning permission.”
“Alright,” she replied. “Do you have an appointment?”
“No,” I admitted, “but--.”
“Well, you’ve have to make an appointment,” she insisted.
She clicked at her computer.
“I can give you next Monday at twelve or Wednesday afternoon at 4:45.”
“Alright,” I agreed, determined to remain plucky. “I can do Wednesday at 4:45 if that’s alright.”
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Jumilah Fioray. The application has previously been under my mother’s name, Catherine Fioray.”
“Is your mother the landowner?”
“My parents are, yeah, Catherine and Adriano Fioray.”
“And they’re the landowners, as well as yourself?”
“No, I’m not a landowner.”
“I’m sorry, the landowner will have to make the appointment.”
“Alright,” I agreed, and left, feeling discouraged.
I rode my bike home, beating up the hill and against the wind. After stashing my bike, I walked inside.
“Hey,” I greeted Uwak Andrew, without feeling.
“Hello.” I opened the fridge. “Are you alright?”
I peered inside, not finding any food which took my fancy, so instead I fetched the orange juice.
“Yeah,” I agreed, without feeling. “They said that I couldn’t personally make the application for planning permission, it would have to come from Mum or Dad because they’re the landowners.”
I stroked my fingers through my hair, a little ratty. At some stage I’ll need to wash it.
“That’s a shame.”
I noticed a ring on Andrew’s finger which hadn’t been there before.
“That ring,” I mentioned, smiling coyly.
He glanced it like he didn’t realise it was there.
“It’s your grandfather’s, actually.”
Uwak Andrew flashed his hand.
“Your mother gave it to me when he passed.”
“What do you think you’re going to do next?”
“I’m not really sure, to be honest. Of course, we’ve still got to apply for planning permission.”
“Are the plans in place?”
“Mostly, but there are still some unanswered questions. I’m assuming that we’re going to receive all the animals from the sanctuary. Nobody has actually said that for sure, though. I need to ask, but I’m probably just afraid to ask, in case they say what I don’t want to hear.”
Tallulah called and I answered the phone.
“Hey, how did you get on this morning?”
“Oh, not great, I couldn’t even make the appointment. Apparently, Mum or Dad have to do it because they’re actually the landowners.”
“I’m sure that your mother would be willing to make the call or go in there, to organise a meeting.”
“Yeah, absolutely, Mum is really committed to this.”
“Then, your mum will organise a meeting. You will sort out everything you need to sort out with the council. It will be fine.”
I agreed with Tallulah, who has the unique ability to make you feel assured.
“Listen, Kyle wanted to have a bit of a hit, would you like to come too? We’re going to go up to the Queens Domain, to get away from the boys training.”
“Look, I’d love to have a hit, but--.”
“It’s chill. I mentioned that I wanted to get back into cricket. You know, I used to be a Milo kid.”
“Well, I’ll catch the bus in. I don’t have any equipment or anything.”
“That’s alright. Kyle will bring everything. “See you then.”
As soon as I wrapped up with Tallulah, I jumped into the TAG meeting. Christine and Reuben were already in the call, so I greeted them, smiling.
“Listen, I heard that you wanted to apply for planning permission to build something,” Reuben mentioned. “Easy tiger, you need to slow right down. Do you even have plans for what you want to build, what species you wish to house?”
“Well, we’ve thought about it.”
“Listen, this isn’t part of the meeting. I want to organise a special general meeting of the ZAA to talk to you about your expectations and our expectations. I’m on your side, Jumilah, I want you and your mother to thrive with this venture. You’ve got to do it in a way that you won’t crash and burn, though. I don’t want to see that happen to you.”
“Thanks, Reuben. I appreciate any help that’s offered.”
“Are we ready to get this meeting started?” Christine checked.
“Yes, I believe that we are,” Reuben confirmed.
I took a breath and put myself on mute.
“Perfect. I will be giving the presentation today, as a matter of fact, on spider monkey subspecies. I’d love for this to be as interactive as possible, so please, jump in with your thoughts whenever you’d like.”
Christine started sharing her screen.
“Basically, there are no purebred spider monkeys in our region.”
She changed slides.
“The question is, what do we do about that?”
“Is this a species which we’re even committing to?” Sam wanted to know. “We’d import from outside the region if we were, but I think that resources are better committed elsewhere.”
“Bolivian squirrel monkey?” Don suggested.
“They’re not actually an endangered species.”
“There are plenty of endangered tamarin species which would benefit from more places within the region,” Raffa reminded.
“I don’t think that tamarin species fit the same exhibits,” Jackson reasoned. “They’re much smaller animals. You’d barely be able to see them in a moated exhibit.”
“We don’t seem to have too many problems with that.”
“What about capuchins?”
“This is probably expanding the conversation too far, but we don’t plan to keep our capuchins,” Reuben admitted. “In fact, pending Bill’s approval, perhaps they could go to Coolangatta.”
“Well, yes, that’s a matter we’ll need to discuss more in our own time,” Christine decided.
“The era of the new, private zoo is certainly back upon us,” Bill noted.
“We’ll move onto the member reports.”
Christine took a sip from her cup of tea.
“Nothing to report this meeting.”
“Hunter Valley Zoo?”
“Raffa and I have been working together in relation to the Red-Handed Tamarin breeding program. Now that our youngsters are growing up, we’d consider that a transfer would be necessary, which the two of us are happy to organise.”
“I’ve been reflecting on what we spoke about last week. In order to sustain the mandrill population, we’ll need to import. The international studbook would be willing to export surplus males to Australia, so, Sam, you might be in luck.”
“Monarto Safari Park?”
“Yes, sad news, I’m afraid. The chimpanzee infant died unexpectedly three days ago. We left her with her mother for a couple of days, but now we’ve been able to take the baby and we’ll perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death, because we just don’t know.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that.”
“We will give you all the time you need.”
“National Zoo and Aquarium?”
“Nothing to report this week.”
“We had a visit from the Glory this week. They set up some enrichment activities for the orangs, filled a nice five minutes at the end of the evening news.”
“Well, that sounds like a pleasant afternoon.”
Christine was being genuine, but I twitched at the thought of sarcasm.
“Taronga Western Plains Zoo?”
“We were wondering if it might be possible to house a bachelor group of chimpanzees. That would be a question for Blessing, I understand that Taronga no longer holds the region’s chimp studbook.”
“From my perspective, it would depend on whether such a group is necessarily. Potentially it could be, down the road. I would advise against importing animals solely for this purpose, though.”
After the meeting, I got changed in my bedroom, then bid farewell to Uwak Andrew and Kem. Thankfully neither the walk to the bus stop, nor the trip into the city, took particularly long. I got off the bus, then ambled across the Domain. When I arrived at the oval, I spotted Tallulah and Kyle at the nets, so I waved and walked over. She was padding up, bat resting against the mesh. I couldn’t help but think of the space as a very uninspiring animal exhibit.
“Kyle’s said that he’s going to bowl a few down to me.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll go easy,” Kyle assured. “At least for the meantime.”
Tallulah tapped the toe of her bat against the synthetic grass, then resumed her stance. Kyle trundled in off a few paces and bowled the ball, which Tallulah smacked back towards him. He leaned down to field, but missed. I tried to remember all I’d learned. Kneeling down, I cupped my hands. At the very least I made sure that my legs would stop the ball. It would have been embarrassing at the best of times to fumble it and have to chase after it, but especially in front of a state cricketer. Thankfully I got in the way of it, and was able to scoop it into my palms.
“Nice, nice, getting your body behind the ball,” Kyle praised.
I beamed, then chucked the ball back to him.
“Only learning from the best.”
“Thanks,” Kyle responded with a smile as he caught the ball.
At the opposite end of the net, Tallulah adopted her batting stance. The ball rose more than she expected. It smashed into her hand.
“Oh, Tallulah, I’m so sorry.”
Kyle rushed down the net as she ripped off her glove. Tallulah squeezed her hand into a fist, which thankfully she could make, even though she grimaced.
“I’m sure that I’ll be fine.”
“Let me take a look at it. We can go back to Bellerive, the team doc would still be in.”
Kyle drove the two of us back to the ground in his BMW 1-Series convertible. When we arrived, he parked in the players’ carpark. Kyle helped Tallulah out of the car. Once I’d manoeuvered myself out from the back seat, he pressed the lock button on his key. Kyle led Tallulah into a building underneath the grandstand.
“Hey, doc,” he greeted an attractive young man, kitted out in Tasmanian Tigers gear.
“I know you’re the expert, but I promise you I’m fine,” Tallulah assured.
“We were in the nets and Tallulah didn’t get her gloves out of the way,” Kyle explained.
“Let me take a look.”
Tallulah presented her hand to the doctor, who poked and prodded, thankfully without much pain.
“If you’re really desperate, go to hospital and get an X-ray, but your girlfriend’s hand is fine, Kyle,” the doctor assured.
Tallulah blushed instantly. Kyle said nothing. I noticed pinkness creeping into his cheeks, as well. With a relatively clean bill of health, we were able to wander back out of the building to the carpark.
“I’m so glad that you’re fine.”
Kyle glanced towards me.
“Jumilah, how are you getting home? I can drive you if you’d like.”
“Oh, you shouldn’t have to do that.”
“You’re Tallulah’s friend, it would be no trouble.”
“Well, thank you, I would appreciate that.”
Tallulah gave Kyle my address, and he didn’t flinch at the mention of Sorell. I got into the back seat, then he commenced the drive. As we drove back towards Sorell, we could see the glow of the fire in the distance. Dark, thick smoke plumed into the air. It seemed to be further away than our place. I didn’t say anything about it. As we turned left in Sorell, I could tell that the fire seemed to be on the other side of Pawleena Road. My eyes widened with horror as it became evident that a house was ablaze.
“I know that a young couple moved in there, not so long ago.”
When Mum and I arrived home, Dad wasn’t around.
“He’s probably gone across to help fight the fire.”
We decked out in long-sleeved, non-flammable clothes and boots. By the time we were ready, the flames had dissipated.
“You can come with us, we’ll make you a cup of tea.”
Juliet, the pregnant bride, was clutching her forearm. Mum and I led her back to our place, where she sat down at the kitchen table. Juliet stared blankly. I didn’t know what to do. Mum made Juliet a cup of tea. She sat at the kitchen table and watched the steam rise into her face.
“The fire most likely started in the house, we managed to stop it from getting to the trees. It’s out now.”
Dad pressed a kiss to Mum’s forehead. Erik, Juliet’s husband, crouched by the table and embraced her, as she sobbed into his shoulder. Before I realised it was being prepared, there was dinner on the table, nothing flash but nourishing. Mum and Dad had offered that Erik and Juliet could stay the night with us, an offer which was accepted. Apparently their only family is on the mainland. When it came to bedtime, I took the lounge. Andrew and Kem offered to go into town and find themselves a motel, which wasn’t our spare room, where Erik would sleep.
“Thank you,” he murmured, as I showed him to the room.
The lounge is actually pretty comfortable. I pressed play on an audiobook I’d bought with some birthday money, to listen to while I fell asleep.
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.