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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY19, 2012

Semenggoh Orang Utans in Sarawak, our Distance Cousins

 

The orangutan or great ape and humans had held a close connection with each other since time immemorial.  We even shared 96.4% of our genetics make-up with the orangutans.  That was the reason why orangutans had held such strong fascination for us, at times to their detriment.  Young orangutans that were illegally kept as pets for a long time became “no-hopers” because it would be extremely difficult for them to live and survive in the wild on their own.

It was at sanctuaries such as the Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Kuching, Sarawak, that rescued and orphaned orangutans could find a safe haven and be rehabilitated to live in the wild once more.  Established in 1975, Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is one of the must-see attractions in KuchingSemenggoh Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is located 20 kilometres away from Kuching City and situated within the lovely 740 hectares Semenggoh Nature Reserve, reaching the Centre just took a 30-minutes drive.

My friends and I arrived at the Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in time for the afternoon feeding time between 3.00pm-3.30pm.  The morning feeding time was from 8.30am-9.00am.  These were the best times to visit the Centre as the semi-wild orangutans would come out of the forest reserve and descent from the trees to the feeding platform to get their food from the Rangers.  Visitors could watch the great apes in action from a safe distance, of course.

Before we headed off to the feeding area at the Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, a briefing was given by the Rangers on what to do and not do when the orangutans appear.  The main idea was to keep still and stay quiet.  A 10-minute walk into the forest trail brought us to the feeding platform area.  The Rangers began placing bananas, bottles of milk, boiled beans and sunflower seeds on the platform, before calling out the names of the orangutans.  In a few minutes, soft rustlings in trees could be heard and we waited in anticipation and a quickening of our heartbeats.

We were delighted when a female orangutan cradling a baby on its side came into sight.  Due of their size, the orangutans do not swing from tree to tree but move with a steady but slow and graceful pace.  The female orangutan ignored us and went straight to the feeding platform and began to peel a banana to eat.  Not long after, a few more orangutans arrived and soon the food was slowly, but surely, consumed.  The Rangers at the Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre informed us that the fully rehabilitated orangutans would not return to the feeding platform until there was scarcity of fruits in the forest.  There were also several orangutans, especially kept as pets from young, that would not go back to the forest as they had become too used to human interactions.

the younger orangutans would linger around the area after their meals, playing with each other.  Sometimes, one or two more mischievous or curious orangutans would climb down to the ground and teasingly charge at visitors but their antics were usually harmless.  However, it is advisable not to go too close to, play with or touch the orangutans as they are semi-wild and have powerful arms, and if they should grab your camera or bag, you can basically say goodbye to your belongings.  Once they were full and finished with their playing, which lasted around an hour or so, the orangutans would head back into the forest.

The Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre also housed other species of endangered wildlife from hornbills to sun bears and gibbons besides orang utans.  Facilities at the Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre included a Visitor Information Centre, bird-breeding enclosure, small mammals breeding site, a large orangutan enclosure, two large bird enclosures, ten large mammal enclosures, and quarantine areas, which were closed to the public.   For us, it had been an interesting and eye-opening trip to the Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.  We learnt about the wildlife in the Centre, particularly the orangutans and were very happy to be able to see and watch the orangutans live in action.  Check it out for yourselves!

Tags: orangutan | orang utans | orang utan Sarawak | orang utan Kuching | wildlife Kuching | Kuching forest | Semenggoh |

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