Orang is a Malay and Indonesian word for “person.”
Hutan is the Malay and Indonesian word for “forest.”
Thus, an Orang Utan is “a person of the forest.”
The endangered orangutans are the exclusive Asian species of great apes. Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, orangutans are found only in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is located about 200 miles east of Kota Kinabalu in the state of Sabah, East Malaysia.
It’s a very slow and difficult drive which includes a steep mountain range, heavy logging traffic, and treacherous roads. We rented a car and our 10 hour driving adventure included the unfortunate maiming of a stray chicken, a flat back tire, an exploding front tire, torrential rain, washed out pavement, and mudslides. The centre opened in 1964 as the first official orangutan rehabilitation project for rescued orphaned baby orangutans from logging sites, plantations, illegal hunting or kept as pets. Today, both orphaned and adult orangutans are trained to survive again in the wild and are released as soon as they are ready. The sanctuary is located within the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve which covers an area of 11,000 acres, much of which is virgin rainforest.
A stroll through the rainforest via boardwalk took us to a feeding platform where the orangutans are fed twice daily.
Within a few minutes, bushes some 500 feet away started to move, and peering through the undergrowth we could see orangutans gradually making their way towards us, some along the jungle floor, others in the trees and ropeways. Feeding time was entertaining, with some orangutans just eating, and others play fighting and wrestling.
Afterwards we took the jungle trail hoping to see wild pygmy elephants or sun bears. We saw neither but did see several species of lizards, giant insects, and a tree viper. Reasonable food and drink exist in the centre’s café, and worth every penny to support their rehabilitation work.