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EB-SDK02
Sepilok Orang Utan (Half Day)

The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is a place where people can go to see orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus) - the wild red apes of Borneo and Sumatra - in their natural habitat, the tropical rainforest. It is important to understand, however, that the purpose of the Centre is to train young orang-utans, which for one reason or another have been held in captivity, so that they may learn to live unaided in the forest. Viewed in a historical context, the story is more complicated and more interesting.

Sepilok is an old Forest Reserve, about 43 square kilometres in area, which before the introduction of heavy machinery was logged by hand for timber. In 1957, logging was banned and the Reserve was desinated for research and conservation. When Sabah became an independent state in Malaysia in 1963, a Game Branch was created in the Forest Department for the conservation of wild animals. At that time, it was believed that the orang-utan was a very rare species, endangered with extinction. Up to that time, young orang-utan had been a popular pet amongst people in Sabah and elsewhere, and any young one caught during logging or forest clearance was in wide demand. With the new Game Branch came a new law which prohibited anyone from catching or keeping an orang-utan.

Many orang-utans which had been kept in captivity were confiscated - but something had to be done with them. Sepilok was chosen as the place where these orang-utans would be brought and trained to live a natural life in the forest. The rehabilitation process, as it became known, met and continues to meet varying degrees of success. Some orang-utans disappeared, some died, some grew to live a semi-natural existence... and some were successfully rehabilitated to survive unaided in the forest. Indeed, some have mated with wild orang-utans and produced babies. One such baby - Juliana, born in 1976 - herself gave birth in Sepilok in 1987.

Since the early days, it has become apparent that while orang-utans are rare, they are not endangered at present. It is now known that conservation of large areas of natural habitat is a surer way to conserve orang-utans than the rehabilitation programme at Sepilok. But orang-utans continue to come into Sepilok, nowadays not from captivity, but directly from areas where forest is being cleared for agriculture. Sepilok serves to give these unfortunate animals life in the forest rather than an uncertain future in a plantation. And, perhaps most importantly, Sepilok serves as a link between people and Sabah's marvellous wildlife, where the young can gain their first insights into nature and the importance of caring for the natural environment.

An even rarer creature of the Borneo rainforests than the orang-utan can be seen at Sepilok - the Asian two-horned rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), often known as the Sumatran rhino. This splendid animal was once widespread throughout South-east Asia. Indeed, during the first three decades of the development of Sandakan by the British Chartered Company, rhinos would often wander into the town and outlaying gardens. Early issues of the British North Borneo Herald mention visitors going off into the forests of the Sandakan hinterland to hunt rhinos, and there are advertisements giving the cost of rhino horn in local Chinese shops. Since those days, the Asian two-horned rhino has been reduced by excessive hunting as well as loss of forest to scattered remnants in Borneo, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia. A number of National Parks and Reserves have been established in all three regions in efforts to conserve the rhinoceros in the wild. Unfortunately, the horn of this rhino is worth more than its weight in gold in Chinese apothecaries, for it is believed by Asians of Chinese descent to be the most effective medicine to reduce fevers.

Worries over continued illegal hunting, as well as the risk of natural calamities or disease, have led the relevant governments to join forces with conservationists and zoos. The aim is to build up a captive population, as a precaution against the possibility that the wild populations may go extinct. For the time being, the Sabah government's contribution to this effort is being developed at Sepilok. Finally, Sepilok is an excellent opportunity to take a walk in the Borneo rainforest without the need to organise a major expedition. Look out for the diversity of trees, climbing plants, ferns and other plants, as well as birds and insects. Do not be disappointed when hordes of colourful wild birds and mammals fail to make a showing. The beauty of rainforest lies in its plants, in its sheer intricacy and complexity, and in its shapes, sounds and subtle relationships.

  • 0740hrs - Meet upon arrival at Sandakan Airport or at Hotel lobby, proceed to the world famous Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, journey will take approximately 30 minutes. On arrival, register at the reception counter and proceed to the Platform A to observe the daily 1000 hrs feeding of the Orang Utan. After witnessing the feeding, proceed to the reception centre for a 30 min video show on the centre. Depart Sepilok Orang Utan Centre for lunch in Sandakan Town.

  • Transfer to Airport for flight to Kota Kinabalu or to hotel. End of Tour.

Things You Should Know / Bring / Wear
Suitable walking shoes / long sleeves shirts / change of clothes / water canteen/plasters / insect repellent / mosquito oil / binoculars / camera / water proof bag for camera / torchlight / raincoat and personal items.



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