Christy and John's Travels travel blog

Orangutan at Rehab Center

Same Guy

Sepilok is an area that pioneered orangutan rehabilitation starting in the early 60s. With nearly 300 orangutans rescued (mostly orphans from the pet trade and logging areas), they aim to make sure the animals are healthy, then teach them how to live and eat in the wild.

They've set up a platform viewing area where tourists can watch semi-wild orangutans being fed as part of their rehabilitation back into the wild (they get bananas and milk twice a day to supplement their diet). There weren't many statistics available on the success rate of this program (hard to track survival and reproduction rates of released animals), but our sense was that this is a good program. We've read criticism that the feeding has become a tourist attraction (nearly 100 people were there the day we visited) that some feel sustains the orangutan's dependence on people. We believe that this is an important educational center (visited by more Malaysians than foreign tourists) and because there were only a handful of orangutans visiting the feeding platform, we assume this means that most of the 300 orangutans who've come through the center have been successfully re-released (many are helicoptered into remote parks).

This is where we celebrated Christy's 40th birthday! We went to the morning and afternoon feedings and visited the Rainforest Discovery Center in-between (basically, a botanical garden). Three orangutans showed up in the morning, four in the afternoon (we may be double counting since we saw one on the roof of the visitor center building).

In any case, it was an absolute treat to see these beautiful creatures. So expressive, intelligent and agile. One thing that struck us was how much brighter red/orange their coats are than those we've seen in zoos.

While we enjoyed this experience immensely, we are hoping to see some wild orangutans in upcoming jungle trips.

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