Pinocchio at the Zoo

Pinocchio at the Zoo

The Proboscis Monkey or the Long-nosed Monkey (Nasalis larvatus) is a native of the South East Asian Island of Borneo. Also known as ‘Bekantan’ in Indonesia, it is reddish brown in colour, has a bulging stomach and a remarkably long nose, which gives it its name.

The Proboscis Monkey or the Long-nosed Monkey (Nasalis larvatus) is a native of the South East Asian Island of Borneo. Also known as ‘Bekantan’ in Indonesia, it is reddish brown in colour, has a bulging stomach and a remarkably long nose, which gives it its name.

Their nasal structure also enables them to make various vocal sounds, including “honks” which are used to signal danger, threat calls, anger and also reassurance to young monkeys.

Though they are tree-dwellers, they have also evolved webbed feet and hands to swim in water, helping them outsmart crocodiles which are their predators.

Though the long nose seems ungainly to us humans, male Proboscis monkeys use the same to attract mates— the bigger the nose, the better!

These monkeys are an endangered species because of habitat loss caused by deforestation. They are also eaten by the local people as a delicacy. Now, there are laws in force to protect these animals.

It was another tiresome, sweltering summer day. But there was no end to the flood of visitors at the Zoo. Entire families had arrived with huge picnic baskets laden with sumptuous food.

The animals in the enclosures were already feeling quite hot and irritated, and having scores of humans peer at them all day long made them all the more restless. But the most restless of them was Pompy, the monkey from Borneo.

Like every other day, the crowds were laughing and pointing at him, making rude gestures and pulling funny faces. Though this always angered him, Pompy had something else on his mind that morning, and impatiently waited for the zoo to close for the day.

As twilight approached and the visitors left, Pompy heaved a sigh of relief. Taking a long, hammer-like stone which he had hidden away earlier, Pompy ambled over to the stream that flowed nearby.

Looking at his reflection in the clear water, Pompy carefully took aim, and gave himself a strong blow on the nose!

The pain made him cry out. He looked at his reflection in the water yet again. No change, he observed. He raised his arm to strike himself once more when a shrill voice stopped him.

“Pompy, what are you doing? Stop that at once!” It was Jory, the woodpecker, one of the few friends he had at the zoo.

“I need to do this before they send me home to Borneo tomorrow, Jory”, wailed Pompy. “I hate my nose! My big, fat, ugly nose! I can’t see my family like this! Why, they’d be ashamed of me!”

Pompy was a nice young monkey, sweet-tempered and gentle, who had been brought to the zoo as a tiny baby and had been bred in captivity without any other monkeys from Borneo for company.

Everything about him was fine except for one thing- his big, wide, overgrown nose that hung limply in front of his face. At first, as a kid, he was blissfully unaware of his appearance, till the other animals started making fun of him.

“What a big nose you have!” giggled the other monkeys from India, who were kept in another enclosure. “You look so ugly! No wonder they didn’t keep you here with us!” they taunted.

The lions and the tigers, who prided themselves on their majestic noses and whiskers, found his appearance disgusting.

“A long nose means you’ve been saying a lot of lies”, said a parrot slyly. “We should call you Pinocchio, not Pompy”, he said, referring to the old fairytale, while everyone else laughed.

“But elephants have long noses too!” argued Pompy. “Oh, elephants are different”, said Jumbo, the head of the elephant herd there. “The longer our trunk, the more attractive we become. But you just look ugly!”

As if the animals’ cruel treatment was not enough, Pompy had to put up with the jeers of human
visitors too. Only Jory was kind to him, and the beaver and giraffe did not make fun of him
either, because earlier, they had been ridiculed too— the beaver for his long teeth and the giraffe
for his long neck— so both knew how he felt.

Just when Pompy had concluded that his life could never get better, he was told that he was
being sent back to Borneo, his homeland! At first his joy knew no bounds.

Despite nasty comments like “Pompy has been found to be too ugly for the zoo!”, Pompy felt hopeful and happy. He looked forward eagerly to the day he would leave the place. But one remark was all it
needed to upset him again.

“What if your family hates your ugly nose and ugly looks?” the fox asked. “They might send you back here again!” he smirked. The thought distressed Pompy,though he never told anyone.

What if, his family really hated him enough to send him back? Or worse, what if the Zoo refused to have him back? Where would he go?

Pompy could think of only one solution— get rid of his ugly nose! Hitting it with a hard stone
had been Plan One, but Jory had foiled his attempts. Now he sat down, sobbing and shaking,
while the woodpecker tried to console him.

“Your nose is your nose. You were born with it”, said Jory. “No matter what anyone says, you
can’t get rid of it.”

“But I have to! Please help me, Jory”, Pompy begged. “You have a nice sharp beak. Peck at my
nose till it becomes short.” As a last resort, Jory pecked at Pompy’s nose.

But it didn’t get any shorter; it just bled. Finally, Pompy gave up. He’d have to remain the way he was.

The next day, Pompy said goodbye to his friends at the Zoo. After a long journey by sea, Pompy
was finally let loose in the forests of Borneo.

It wasn’t long before Pompy heard the noises of other monkeys nearby. Pompy tried to hide behind a clump of trees. He didn’t want them to see him or his ugly nose. The monkeys came closer, and sensed his presence.

Pompy could not see them, but he realized he could no longer stay hidden. He covered his face with his hands, to hide his deformity.

“Hello” said another monkey. “Look at us. Don’t be shy.”

Unwillingly, Pompy opened his eyes. What he saw gave him a shock. Standing before him was an entire troop of monkeys with big, long noses like his own!

The other monkeys smiled. “Welcome to our group! Why are you hiding from us?”

“I… I thought my nose is ugly” Pompy asked hesitatingly. “I thought you wouldn’t like me.”

“Ugly? Are you crazy? Our long noses are the reason we’re called Proboscis monkeys! We’re rare and unique.

Your nose is the biggest that we’ve ever seen and that makes you the most handsome of us as well! In fact, you will now be our leader”, said one of them, as he led Pompy by the hand to meet the rest of the troop.

Pompy of course, was happy; he was finally in the right place!

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