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Ohhh ... cute.
Ohhh ... cute.
Very cool-looking orang-utan.
Having a little cuddle.

Sepilok Orang-Utans

Thursday, April 8, 2004
Sorrel gets up close and personal with the rarest creatures on earth — the Borneo orang-utan.

Not long ago, Sumatra and Borneo were full of carefree orang-utans, swinging from jungle canopies. Sadly, with the destruction of their habitat, they became rare, but fortunately not endangered. In the past 10 years, their numbers have dropped from 180,000 to as few as 10,000.

There are three sanctuaries dedicated to their protection and rehabilitation, and the largest is the 43-square kilometre Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre, which was established in 1964. Logging was banned in the area in 1957 and Sepilok was designated as an area for conservation and research. Two to three hundred of the apes who have been orphaned or injured are tended to until they are confident and well enough to return to the wild.

Taking an orang-utan as a pet is no longer permitted, and any that were discovered living in domesticity were confiscated and taken to the centre. Others in areas that were to be logged were rescued and taken to safety. Some have mated with wild partners and reproduced; proof that the program is working.

Around 100,000 people go to the centre every year to visit these rare creatures. The liveliest times of the day are 10am and 3pm when they are fed bananas and milk. They are not afraid of humans, but do hang on to your cameras and bags — they have been known to grab belongings and disappear with them!

The orang-utans, which means "Man of the Forest" in Malay, can be seen from a series of walkways and viewing platforms supervised by Sylvia Alistore, the chief ranger. From there, you get to see the lovable creatures close up and while it is tempting to touch them, it is not permitted. However, the good news is that they can touch you — and being curious creatures, they quite often do just that, but to keep any viruses getting into the community, you are asked to keep contact to a minimum.

From another platform, you can see where orphaned babies are being raised and supervised by the centre's resident vet, Dr San. They are bottle-fed with milk and eventually weaned onto bananas and sugarcane.

Sepilok is responsible for saving a creature that was on the verge of extinction due to the destruction of its habitat and the value of its horns, used in Chinese medicine as a fever reducer. The splendid Asian two-horned rhinoceros once roamed South-East Asia in great herds, and it is hoped that the program will see them increase in great numbers.

Sepilok gives a golden opportunity to walk in the Borneo rainforest and enjoy the diversity of trees, climbing plants, ferns, other exotic plants, birds and insects, tree frogs and bronze skinks. There is not an abundance of colourful bird life, but the beauty of the rainforest lies in its complexity and intricacy, shapes and sounds.

Adjacent to the centre, among oil palms, tropical shrubs and wild grasses, is the Sepilok Nature Resort. It offers fully air-conditioned timber chalets with hot water and bath and offering lake or jungle view verandahs. There is a restaurant, lounge, covered terraces and sundeck beside a natural lake, and gardens with around 150 species of orchids. It is a place of comfort, privacy, good food and rich conservation heritage for nature education and eco-tourism.


Sabah, Borneo


: World Expeditions offers 11 day Sabah Adventure trips including return economy airfares, twin share accommodation, transfers and most meals starting at $3960 from Perth and $4155 from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, per person.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.

More information

World Expeditions
Level 5, 71 York Street
Sydney 2000
Ph: 02 9279 0188 1300 720 000
Fax: 02 9279 0566

It is recommended travellers to Malaysia see their doctor at least 6 weeks before departures. Prior to travel travellers should be ‘in date’ with vaccinations listed on the Australian Immunisation Schedule, as well as vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, tetanus, typhoid fever and tetanus. As malaria is present in all areas of the country malaria prophylaxis is recommended Travellers may also be at risk of dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis depending on the time of year of travel and exact destination.

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