Borneo is one of the only places left on Earth where orang-utans exist in the wild. Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, they are now only found in Borneo and Sumatra.
It was amazing to visit the conservation centre in Sepilok to see the work they are doing to help support the survival of these endangered animals. However, it was devastating to see deforestation happening all around us during our travels around Borneo. Especially since the only reason these animals are now endangered, can be summarised in two words; habitat loss.
Palm oil demand is destroying the orang-utans homes and although the trees are being replaced, it appears that these are only in the form of plantations, not to rebuild natural habitats. Unfortunately, palm oil is in basically every product we use, so it’s a tough battle for the orang-utans. You can read more about the on-going problem and how to help at www.saynotopalmoil.com.
I’m delighted to say we did see a mother and her baby on the Kinabatangan river cruise, so great to see that they are still out there in the wild.
The conservation centre is in the middle of the rainforest in Sepilok and this land is protected from palm oil farming.
The orang-utans are technically free to come and go as they please – they have been spotted on the walkways in the neighbouring Rainforest Discovery Centre. However, any babies are looked after in a nursery area for their safety and food is provided for all the orang-utans, should they want it. This human interaction does mean that some of the orang-utans are not afraid of humans, however some are still more shy and reserved.
The centre is only open for 4 hours every day: from 9-11AM and 2-4PM, and a day ticket permits entry to both sessions (costing 30RM=£6). It is another 10RM (£2) for every camera and lockers for bags is free. We felt this was a very reasonable price and more can be donated to help support the rehabilitation work.
The break from 11-2PM provides a perfect opportunity to visit the Sun Bear sanctuary which is right next door or grab some lunch at the lovely Sepliok nature lodge.
Orang-utan “feeding” sessions are at 10AM and 3PM and many visitors flood to the feeding platform at this time. However, during our day there was only one big male dominating (and scaring off the other monkeys who were desperate for some scraps!).
We decided to wander round the walkways during the second feeding session and spotted a couple of orang-utans really close to the walkways during this time, probably because it was so quiet. We also realised lots of food is also put down in the apparatus sections which may explain why only one orang-utan ventured to the official feeding platform.
We were also incredibly lucky to get a glimpse of the Bornean Pygmy elephants! This did mean that some of the walkways were closed as it would be dangerous to get too close.
We really enjoyed our visit to the rehabilitation centre and would highly recommend if visiting Sabah. Let’s help save the orang-utans!