Following on from our last blog which addressed our introduction to Sandakan, Sabah, in this blog, we start to focus on the fauna and flora for which this area is world-renowned.
In a nutshell, we covered three major highlights with our driver in an amazing day; these were:
- Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre [open this link for public photos]
- Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary [open this link for public photos)]
- Rainforest Discovery Center [open this link for public photos]
We left our hotel at about 8.30 am and headed for the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center. We needed to be there for 10 am to see the first of two feeding times for the orangutans (alternative spelling).
Sepilok does some wonderful work in rescuing orangutans from captivity and human cruelty, providing excellent care and medical facilities, teaching the orangutans the skills that they will need in the wild. The objective is to return as many orangutans to the wild, as possible, but safely, minimizing the risk to their survival. To understand the depths of the cruelty to orangutans, please open this link in which cites a true story where International Animal Rescue rescues a mother and baby. Even though there are others, Sepilok is the largest and most important rehab center for orangutans in Borneo.
Returning to the feeding ceremony at Sepilok, this is an amazing experience and a photographer’s delight. All the orangutans assemble as soon as they hear the arrival of the keeper, they start their natural performance by showing how fast they can climb, jump and do their acrobats in the trees. It is important to understand this is not a zoo but a school for monkeys, and the animals live in a natural environment in the rain-forest. Just as the food arrives, there is great excitement, everyone is happy, and the feeding begins; they sit quietly, eating their fruit until they have had their fill and then they go off dancing in the trees again. It is also so nice to see the mums and their babies hanging on their tummies as mum protects them.
We left Sepilok with a feeling of great satisfaction in the wonderful work that they are doing. We then headed to Labuk Bay, yet another monkey sanctuary, this time the Proboscis monkey, that we are told is endemic to Borneo. A very unusual looking primate with a very long nose – in mature males the nose can be seven inches in length [open this link for some amazing public photos of proboscis monkeys]. The male uses the length of his nose to attract a mate and the longer the nose the more popular he is with the ladies! This center is privately owned and here we once again saw the feeding of this fascinating animal. Once again wonderful work is done here in trying to save this endangered species.
Our next stop that day was the Rain-Forest Discovery Center [open link for public photos]. This provided a lush forest in which to walk in various paths, with lots of of information about all the trees and plants. It was quite beautiful and very interesting. As we looked at the beautifully shaped and colored trees and plants, we reflected on the enormous percentage of rain-forest that had been lost forever to palm oil production.
After the Rain-Forest Discovery Center, we returned to the nearby Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center. We had missed the introductory film earlier in the the day, so went back just before the 4 pm feeding and this time we were able to see their video describing the excellent work that is being done here for orangutans, also the amount of effort that is being put into trying to educate the public on the importance of being kind to animals. Well, as we were there, we thought we would see the feeding time again! It was extremely crowded with lots of families with very young children, so it was very noisy with excitement. However, we were privileged to see a mum with her newly born baby orangutan.
This was a truly amazing day for us but it left us once again thinking about the loss of of the rain-forest to palm-trees and palm oil production.
We question whether the next generation of children in Malaysia will be able to see orangutans and proboscis monkeys in the wild or will they just be confined to zoos and wildlife centers? We were fortunate and proud to have seen both of these species in the wild, in the jungles of Borneo; continue reading this blog, as it’s coming up soon!