Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Wildlife part of lure of Borneo


There are only two places in the world where, if you're lucky, you can see orangutans in the wild. One of them is Borneo.

Yet, even there, these reclusive, great apes are endangered as the rainforest is being chopped down to make way for palm oil plantations.

But in the magnificent, tropical habitat that remains, orangutans still make their nests in trees at night and crash around, swinging their large red bodies from limb to limb during the daytime.

I've seen gorillas in the wild in the mountains of Rwanda. They are magnificent, placid and playful, their eyes deep pools.

Still, orangutans - the "people of the forest"- are my favourites and part of the reason I keep being lured back to Borneo. The last time I was there, one of the juveniles at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre swung down from the treetops, hopped the fence intended to keep the humans away and promenaded along on the boardwalk just a few metres from us - almost close enough to touch.

Yet despite trips up different rivers and to several national parks, I have yet to see orangutans in the wild.

I'm hoping that in October, it's fifth time lucky. And, I'm hoping some of you will come along with me on a 12-day Vancouver Sun adventure that will provide a number of opportunities to spot these gentle giants. Our trip's focus is on Borneo's unique wildlife that includes Pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, hornbills, exotic birds, gigantic and even carnivorous plants and an array of butterflies that even Disney animators couldn't have dreamed up.

It was a university zoology course that piqued my interest in great apes and an introductory anthropology course that introduced me to Borneo's indigenous peoples, who are known collectively as Dayaks. My interest in Dayaks and their art has grown during the years. The motifs in their carving bear some striking similarities to those of West Coast designs. Some of their masks are reminiscent of New Guinea and Africa, while others would not be out of place in the souks of the Middle East.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Wildlife part of lure of Borneo
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