Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Meander With Meg: A Day Trip To Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Borneo

When you think about native Borneo wildlife, the orangutan is most likely to come to mind.

The state of Sabah in Borneo has to be home to some of the world’s most iconic and rare species. From the elusive pygmy elephant to the proboscis monkey, one of the more infamous animal has to be the orangutan. Orangutans can only been found in the wild in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

The word orangutan is actually Malay for ‘man of the forest.’ Out of the great ape family, orangutans spend the most time in the trees.

They cut a classic, solitary figure in the branches and prefer to spend most of their time alone, apart from mothers and their dependant offspring. Each night they build a nest from branches in which to sleep and can live for up to 30 years.

I was excited to see as many native species as I could on my recent trip to Malaysian Borneo. I knew that my first stop would have to be the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary to get a really good look at these beautiful creatures.

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

The sanctuary was established in 1964 by Englishwoman Barbara Harrison as a rehabilitation centre for sick, orphaned or injured Borneo orangutans. The goal is to care for the primates until they are able to be reintroduced into the wild.

It is an educational centre for visitors, however the needs of the orangutans come first over those of the visitor who may want to snap their latest animal selfie. As a result, tourists are not allowed to interfere with the rehabilitation process cannot approach, feed or interact with the orangutans.

As baby orangutans depend on their mothers for up to 7 years, the rehabilitation process can take significant time and dedication. Young orangutans are paired up with an older one in a buddy system. It is from their buddy that they learn many of the essential skills they need for survival, such as climbing.

Deforestation, illegal logging and capture of wild animals to use as pets in Borneo are still controversial activities. It is because of these things that there are many orphaned or injured orangutans that need help from the sanctuary.