Visiting the Sepilok Orang Utans Rehabilitation Centre was my first encounter with ‘semi-wild’* orang utans in their natural habitat. Here, orphan baby orang utans are rescued and put through years of rehabilitation so that they can one day return and survive in the rainforest.
The orang utans are fed twice a day at the feeding platform which is open for viewing to the public. This is to increase the awareness of the rehab programme. From the centre’s point of view, if no orang utans arrive at the feeding platform, it means good news – the orang utans can find food themselves and that is the basic skill of surviving in the jungle. However, from the visitors’ point of view, it will be hugely disappointing!
Apart from human beings, orang utans are the only mammals that will nurse their babies for between 6-7 years (which is equivalent to human teenage). Baby orang utans learn hunting and survival skills from their mummy, that’s why the rehab programme takes so long before the orphans can be released to the wild.
Food for thought
Orang utans are endangered as a result of deforestation by humans – so are we destroying their natural habitat for need or greed?
* These orang utans are ‘semi-wild’ as they have completed the rehab programme and have been released into their natural habitat (43 square kilometres of protected forest at the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve), but some still choose to return for their daily feeding.