Imagine being orphaned and left with no one to care for you because your parent’s home was being taken away and they had to flee for their own survival.
This is what keeps occurring in Borneo for the Orangutans. They are cute, cuddly and they desperately need our help. They are so alike us they share 96.4% of the same human DNA, however they are endangered.
Visiting Borneo with the family we stayed in Sandakan briefly to go and check out one of Borneo’s main attractions, The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Sanctuary, where they have a special task to rescue and rehabilitate orphaned Orangutans, for eventual release back into the wild.
We learnt that Orangutan actually means “Man of the forest”, they are 4 times stronger than humans and because of major deforestation within Borneo over 600 orphaned Orangutans have been cared for in Sepilok since 1964.
They are endangered for their mothers are killed due to deforestation; either that or their mothers are just too frightened for their own lives and simply drop their young to flee from the human onslaught.
Once people realized this was occurring a certain group of people opened the Sepilok sanctuary where they care for rescued and orphaned baby orangutans from plantation and logging sites, illegal hunting or being kept as pets (illegally).
As they are brought into the sanctuary they nurture and rehabilitate them, teach them to eat, climb and everything a mother would have done. As they are cared for and grow healthier and stronger, steps are taken to eventually release them into the wild. For some they are ready to go but for some they have such a strong relationship with their careers that they won’t move on. They are released into the jungle where they can run wild and free, for those that are released within the sanctuary, there is still the daily feeding point for those who chose to stick around.
You can come and visit these Orangutans at the Sepilok sanctuary during the feeding times of 10am and 3pm, however it is recommended to arrive 30mins before feeding time. The closest city to stay at is Sandakan from which you can either catch a bus or taxi or organize a tour guide (not particularly needed).
As an aside, the deforestation being carried, not only in Borneo, but throughout Malaysia and Sumatra, is largely for the commercial growing of Palm Oil Trees. Palm Oil is used extensively throughout the world in beauty, health and food products and we can all help not only the Orangutans, but the Pigmy Elephants, Sumatran Tigers and many other endangered animals by not buying products that contain Palm Oil.
Who else has been and who would love to go and visit the “man of the forest”?