Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Intrepid Travel: Turtles and orangutans - witnessing wildlife conservation in Borneo

Sabah is a state situated on the northern tip of Borneo, Malaysia. It’s home to not only 3.5 million people, but also to a diverse array of animal and plant species. Forests and protected areas make up over half of Sabah.

However, due to extensive logging, the forests of Sabah have been severely reduced. The demand for timber, raw materials and the conversion of forests into agricultural land and palm oil plantations means that Sabah has depleted almost all of its old-growth forests.

The most notable victims of this change are the Bornean orangutans, which are one of only two species of great apes that are native to Asia. Destruction of their natural habitats has led to the Bornean orangutan being listed as a critically endangered species.

As a result, there is now a strong push towards conservation efforts in Sabah. The most famous project is at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

Covering 40 square kilometres of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, the centre rehabilitates orphaned and injured orangutans, with the goal to eventually return them to the wild. And here’s the great thing – as a traveller, you can visit!

Seeing the rehabilitation of orangutans in Sepilok

Before entering the sanctuary, I make use of the free lockers to store my bag. Cheeky orangutans have been known to snatch bags and loose items from unsuspecting visitors.

A walking path snakes down to the feeding area where the orangutans (and other monkeys looking for a free meal) congregate twice a day at 10am and 3pm. Your ticket gives you access to both feedings.