Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre Borneo

Rescuing Borneo's Orangutans

I never expect too much from animal sanctuary's. I know I'm cynical and I really struggle with animals in cages or not roaming free, however, I'm not that cynical that I will make a judgement without actually checking out those that seem to be OK.

Visiting the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok, was the third time in a week that I was very pleasantly surprised with the animal rehab centers here in Borneo.

We were treated to amazing weather the day we did the Orangutan Centre which of course is never a bad thing, however it was an especially spectacular day weather wise.

We headed first off to the nursery section which is where they care for the orphaned baby orangutans and this is where I expected to be pretty upset. Despite my reservations, it's a great facility and their focus is on bringing up the infants only for the purpose of being able to join the balance of the population out in the trees and not for the purpose of being an orangutan on display. Human interaction is minimal and decreases as the infant gets older to maintain the focus on turning out self sufficient animals that could survive in the wild. I was actually impressed which is hard to do.

That face – could you resist that face??

Watching the Orangutans feeding

Leaving the nursery, out guide walked us down to the stations where you can see the older Orangutans coming in for feeding. We were pre-warned that as it was fruit season the chances of seeing too many was very slim. We met people in the carpark who had come back today as they had seen only one Orangutan the previous day.

While I was prepared to be disappointed I was actually secretly a bit pleased. That meant that the Orangutans weren't reliant on the feeding schedules which made my day. I am always nervous that while their lifestyle is vastly improved these creatures just end up in a bigger more expansive zoo. I was delighted that they don't. More so I was delighted that they fend for themselves and aren't at all reliant on the feeding times.

The stations are set back into the forest and you are probably 10 metres from them I guess. They have rigged these heavy duty wires everywhere for the Orangutans to swing on which is awesome and of course it means that you see the wires moving sometimes 20 minutes before you see the Orangutan. We were very lucky indeed. 3 came down for the morning session and because our ticket works for the whole day we went back in the afternoon and saw even more, along with a mother and baby. I don't know whether its because they are so human like or if they are just so damn cute, but its hard to to leave not grinning like a tool. They are amazing creatures and the centre is doing good work.


What's the main risk to the Orangutans?

Like in so many places in the world, Borneo's native animal habitat is being destroyed at an alarming rate.

Disconcertingly in Borneo (as in other parts of mainland Malaysia) the land is being bulldozed for Palm Oil plantations. It's not just that they are new plantations either, it's that these plantations are often the source of “certified sustainable” grown palm oil. Malaysia's economy has been driven my bribes since the beginning of time and this practice is still in place and widely used. Certificates for sustainable farms can be purchased the same as almost anything else can be purchased in Malaysia, so even purchasing products that have sustainabley grown palm oil isn't necessarily helping. That palm oil has got a decent change of having come from a farm that was made from bulldozed native forest. The other really disturbing thing is that these farms are often run from foreign investment, so the value of eco tourism has no effect on these corporations. They aren't from Borneo so they don't care if Borneo increases their income from tourism. You can't impress upon a foreign entity the value of replacing products with nature tourism if it's not their country.

The best thing you can do is educate yourself about what products actually contain palm oil and doing your best to avoid them.


What can you do?

The best thing you can do is educate yourself about what products actually contain palm oil and doing your best to avoid them.

You can also donate through WWF or a similar charity, or directly to the Orangutan Appeal.

Look for the RSPO label

This certification is taken very seriously and isn't easy to get. There is a lot involved in obtaining this certification which includes inspections, assessment of past and ongoing processes with revisions constantly taking place.

Check out the RSPO website for more info

Learn What Products Have Palm Oil

Seriously limit your use of Palm Oil. The plantations are taking over wildlife habitats so fast in Malaysia and especially Borneo.

Check out this WWF page and see exactly how much Palm Oil you are consuming. It is in so many products and while it can be hard to eliminate it completely, you should be able to purchase products with the RSPO certification for anything you can't do without.

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Jenny Marsden - Charge The Globe
About the author

Meet Jenny, a passionate Australian travel blogger who has explored 101 countries to date. With over 30 years of travel experience, Jenny has a wealth of knowledge to share with her readers about the cultures, landscapes, and people she has encountered on her journeys. She's always battling unfashionably frizzy hair and you will never catch Jenny in anything but comfortable shoes.

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