Putting meaning onto the doings of wild animals, making patterns of them, is often beyond even the most astute observer. But for any real naturalist meaning is far more interesting than seeing. For the whole of my first Borneo tour and the first eight drives of this, we saw no banded palm-civets, indeed Mohammad tells me he had not seen one for two years. By the end of yesterday we had seen three, one on each drive, though it is possible that two of them were the same animal, some distance apart in time and space.
By the same token, on both tours, on every drive we have made along the entrance road and some drives into the forest, we have seen Malay civets. Yesterday, on banded palm-civet day, we saw none at all. Where then did the banded palm-civets appear from so suddenly and where did the Malay civets go? And why?
Another new mammal appeared suddenly this morning, from the blushing dawn of this tour's twelfth night drive in Tabin. Three Hose's langurs, slender pale-face primates with brylcreem crests, were by the road, eating leaves as new and pinkly blushing as the dawn. Where have they been these past two weeks in Tabin and what brought them to my life today? Just leaves?
I do not know. Which is why I look. And why I ponder. And why, looking again this morning, I saw two buffy fish-owls, a common palm-civet and three slender, leaf-chomping monkeys. And why I'll continue looking till my days' end.
Looking, I think, for meaning.