24 March 2009

Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC)

The main reason for us coming to Sepilok is to visit the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre . The centre looks after and cares for orphaned, injured or formerly captive orang-utans and rehabilitates them for release back into the wild. It is only one of four such centres in the world.

There are thought to be less than 20,000 orang-utans remaining in the wild and they are only found here on Borneo and also Sumatra. They are the only great ape that is found outside of Africa and are the only ones who build and sleep in nests.

Those who have been orphaned at a young age need lots of care and the supervisors may have to teach them how to climb, forage and build nests, all the skills they would normally learn from their mother. The very young even have to be bottle fed every 4 hours like a human baby.

As the animals develop the human support is gradually withdrawn and they slowly move into the wilds of the surrounding forest.

As a visitor you don't get to see most of the rehabilitation areas due to quarantine issues (orang-utans are susceptible to human diseases) and the disturbance that it would create. What you do get to see is two daily feeding sessions that take place in the forest. Food is put out to help supplement the diet of animals that have already been released so that they can come and get additional nourishment if needed.

It's great to see the little ginger fellas swinging so gracefully through the jungle but a big problem is the humidity. We don't know what the humidity actually was in the jungle but in Sandakan, the nearest town, it was 92%. The sweat was pouring out of us when we were just standing still let alone when we actually tried moving anywhere.

As with any wildlife spotting it's totally pot luck what you see. We were really lucky on our last visit to have a very close encounter with a fully grown female orang-utan on the walkway to the feeding area.

Once the orang-tans have finished eating then the macaques dive in and fight each other for any leftovers.

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