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  1. Visiting an orangutan sanctuary, Sabah, Borneo

    posted by Guest blogger - Matt Preston | 0 Comments

    Visiting an orangutan sanctuary, Sabah, Borneo

    Jul272010

    Today's guest blogger is Matt Preston, travel photographer, editor and co-founder of TravelWithAMate.com. Having visited over 45 countries, this self-confessed travel addict now runs an online travel community of bloggers and global nomads sharing their advice and experiences. Matt has just launched a photography book titled "Portraits of Asia" and his website is giving away a 15 day overland tour of Thailand for 2 people in his latest competition. You can keep up to date with everything Matt does by following him on Twitter and ‘liking’ his facebook page.


    No trip to Borneo would be complete without a visit to an orangutan sanctuary. Sabah, the Malaysian part of Borneo, now has five sanctuaries with the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre near Sandakan being the most accessible.

    Much of the landscape in Borneo is now palm tree plantations. Endless rows of palms can often be seen as the oil is collected from the nuts of the tree. Unfortunately these plantations have caused widespread damage to Borneo's eco-system. Many of its orangutan families have been displaced and the babies often end up in the hands of poachers who sell them to villagers as pets.

    Thankfully, owning an orangutan is now illegal and the orphaned babies are rescued and taken to sanctuaries such as Sepilok to ensure their survival and can eventually return to the wild. Formed in 1962, the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre has grown to become an important place for orang-utan research and the fact that it is part-tourist attraction helps fund its ongoing work.

    The best times to visit are during feeding at 10am and 3pm every day. With a video and exhibition hall on site, there is a lot to learn before you witness these playful animals for yourself. A wooden footpath leads you in to the sanctuary and feeding grounds. The humid air of the rain forest is the only thing you need to contend with as the walk isn't far so it's not long before you get to witness an orangutan close up, wandering along the wooden railings of the walkway. Patience is a virtue as more orangutan appear on the platforms where rangers sit with buckets of bananas. A rustling of trees and bouncing ropes is a hint that they're on their way.

    How many orangutan you'll see can vary, depending on the time of day you visit. We only witnessed three during the thirty minutes we were there. While some people expect to see more, only seeing a few is actually a good sign as it means they are out in the forest fending for themselves rather than relying on handouts from park rangers. The sanctuary's primary purpose is to help orangutans return to the wild so the less you see the better job they're doing.

    The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is supported by the Orangutan Appeal UK who help build new enclosures, transfer and release full grown males, and employ veterinary staff at the Sanctuary. They are a UK registered charity and you can even adopt and orangutan with them.

    Adopting an orangutan costs just £30 and you receive a certificate and two photos along with its history and profile. You also get an update on its rehabilitation every six months with updated photos. It's a great cause and a fantastic way to help these endangered animals. Visit www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk for more information.

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