Friday 1 September 2017

Adventures in Borneo (2) Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

We flew from Kota Kinabalu to Sandaken in the Sabah region of Borneo to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see Orangutans in the wild at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre – the precious home of the last wild Orangutans of North Borneo.

The centre, in 43 square kilometres of virgin equatorial rainforest, was set up in 1964 by an English woman called Barbara Harrison and it was the first centre in the world to dedicate itself to the rehabilitation of orphaned (as a result of illegal logging and deforestation) Orangutans or those that have been displaced (due to being caught and illegally kept as pets). Today, as well as caring for young orphaned Orangutans, it looks after dozens of other wildlife species including Sunbears, Gibbons, Sumatran Rhinos, and Borneo Pygmy Elephants.

Walking through the jungle to the feeding stations, we managed to spot some pigmy elephants. The jungle was so dense that we walked along wooden gantry pathways to keep us above ground level and safe from snakes and other dangers. All around us the trees were so incredibly ancient and tall and it was a fabulous experience to see both young and older Orangutans swinging through the tree canopy above us towards the food station.

My photos really didn’t do our experience here justice but then being behind the camera wasn’t the point of being here, so for once, I didn’t take many snaps. I just stood in awe and wonder as these beautiful Orangutans sat and ate or swung on ropes or through the trees around me.

The word Orang-Utan means ‘Man of the Forest’.

Check out these short video clips of wild Orangutans at the feeding station

Sightings at the feeding station are not guaranteed but we were fortunate in seeing lots of Orangutans on that day.

On the website (which you can find following the link HERE) it states “The orangutans that come for this free feed are wild and therefore can be dangerous, so there are staff on hand to make sure interactions do not occur, for the safety of both visitor and orangutan. Because they are wild, it can never be guaranteed that many will come for the feed, if any at all (especially during the fruiting season). This is where some people leave disappointed, but the truth is if no orangutans come, then it is a positive thing - it means they are not reliant upon the feeding to survive.”

Afterwards, we went to visit the outdoor nursery to observe the juvenile orangutans on their final stage of rehabilitation before release.

The whole experience was amazing and (watching the DVD presentation in the Orangutan Appeal UK presentation and video) is highly emotional.

Five amazing things I learned about Orangutans

There are only two species of Orangutan in the word: the Borneo Orangutan and the Sumatran Orangutan.

The Orangutan is the only great ape outside Africa.

The Orangutan is strictly arboreal - it lives exclusively in the trees - making it the largest tree living mammal in the world.

96.4% of our DNA is identical to that of the Orangutan.

The Orangutan has the longest childhood dependence on the mother of any wild animal in the world.

The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is owned and run by the Sabah Wildlife Department, from which it receives some funds.  Additional funding comes from the entrance fee charged to tourists. The charity Orangutan Appeal UK funds projects at the centre including the renovation of enclosures and equipment, as well as funding five members of the care team, including a veterinary nurse.

Our visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Northern Borneo is an experience I will cherish all my life.

In my next travel post we are heading back to Thailand - to an area and an island we haven't yet explored called Koh Chang - which means elephant island. It's rainy season there so the weather is bound to be a mixture of sunshine and showers - but in off season there are hotel resort bargains to be found and I need some down time from travelling as I have a book to write and revisions to work on. We'll fly from KL to Pattaya and then take a taxi and a boat over to Koh Chang.

See you next time here on the blog - in the meantime - please do consider signing up to my occasional newsletter for updates on the writing as well as offers and news of my next book. The link is at the top right of this page and all subscribers automatically get a download of my fun 'How To Party Online' ebook in Kindle and PDF formats completely FREE as a thank you!

Love from,