Monday, 4 February 2008

Venture out of Kuching and you'll be amazed at the little discoveries.

Nature's surprises - The Star 2/2/08

Venture out of Kuching and you'll be amazed at the little discoveries.


Sarawak is known as the Land of the Hornbills but it is perhaps better known for another animal – the orang utan.

These "men of the jungle" are in danger of becoming extinct due to development and deforestation in their habitat.

We took a half-hour drive from Kuching to Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, a temporary home for the endangered animals of Sarawak, especially orang utans ithat have been injured, orphaned or rescued from villagers who kept them as pets.

The centre is situated in a forest, and their aim is to help the animals adapt to the wilds again.
This is a good sign as it indicates that the orang utans are slowly adjusting to the wilderness and are able to forage for food on their own.

We reached the centre early in the morning, having been told that the best time to see the orang utans was during feeding time at 9am. The park rangers told everyone to stand away from the feeding platform as the creatures were, after all, wild.

We obeyed and stared eagerly at the mountain of fruits, hoping that an orang utan would drop by. A ripple of excitement broke out within the group as a huge orang utan approached the platform from the trees.

This was Ritchie, a 27-year-old male, the largest at the centre.
He seemed unperturbed by all the gawking visitors as he calmly made his way down to the platform. Ritchie was joined by a female with her baby clinging onto her. She was more cautious as she had a baby under her care. The orang utans are fed the same type of fruits every day so that they would get bored and look for their own food in the forest.

The rangers told us that it was a challenge in the beginning to educate villagers not to keep orang utans.

Many didn't want to give up their pets. Strict law enforcement and education have, however, drastically reduced the number of these illegal pets. Sadly, some orang utans have been kept by humans for so long that they do not know how to fend for themselves in the wild anymore. These are usually kept by the centre for education purposes.