Thursday, 13 March 2014

Men of the Jungle

I don't know why but of all the animals in the animal kingdom, I have always been fascinated with the orangutan. Of course, it's very name literally translates to "Man of the Jungle" in English.. which in itself is intriguing.

Anyway, my family and I had a firsthand view of orangutan in the wilds when we visited the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre in Sarawak last year. A mere 24 km from Kuching, it sits within the boundaries of the Semenggoh Nature Reserve and serves as the place to care for wild animals which have either been found injured in the forest, orphaned, or were previously kept as illegal pets.

It  is the orang utan rehabilitation programme, though, that has made the Centre famous. Here you get a chance to see semi-wild orang utan, ranging from tiny infants and boisterous adolescents to dignified mature adults, enjoying life in a secure natural habitat.

We made our way to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre at about 1pm on a weekday and reached there as the entry tickets started to go on sale. The centre is open twice a day at feeding time: around 9am and again at 3pm. Visitors are advised to come an hour earlier to be comfortably seated at the observation area.

As we were early, we had the chance to go over to the information centre. Semenggoh is the centre for the study of orang utan biology and behaviour, as well as a safe and natural haven for dozens of semi-wild orang utan, graduates of the rehabilitation programme. It is also home to numerous baby orang utan, born in the wild to rehabilitated mothers.

There is a board listing the inhabitants of the centre.

And surprise, surprise.. orangutan has birth certificates..just like us.

The highlight of the visit was when the ranger put out food for the orangutan during feeding time so that visitors could see them at close range. The animals usually spend considerable time feeding in one place, either on the wooden platform, in a nearby tree or hanging from guide ropes.  But since it was fruit season, it was rather hard to coax the orangutan out for their afternoon snack. Finally, after putting extra incentive (ie a superlarge bottle of milk), a female adult orangutan obliged.

It was a once in a lifetime experience that will be remembered. We humans are often too focused on ourselves. An insight into the lives of those in the animal kingdom could be humbling.

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