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Orangutans and Orchids

by becca on April 7, 2010

We arrived at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center around 9:30am and waited as the wooden observation deck filled up with tourists. Later that morning, the orphaned orangutans who currently call the center home as they are reintroduced to the wild and weened off human contact, would be served a modest meal of milk and bananas. The young apes seemed shy, but used the wires connecting trees with a series of platforms to swing their small muscular bodies over for breakfast and chow down with the numerous pig-tailed macaques around.

But the center’s main priority is certainly not tourism. The orangutans that used to roam freely around Borneo are now endangered, and many youngsters are found around palm oil plantations where the trees end — many times being orphaned by the murder of their mothers. The center cares for the scared babies and goes through a delicate process of rehabilitating them so that one day they may live on their own in the wild — a process that takes up to seven years. And they’ve had great success. While some orangutans never stray far from the center throughout their adult lives, many others go on to mate and raise their own babies.

Just down the road from the orangutan center is the Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Center, which is sort of like a park with a variety of hiking trails, viewing towers, canopy walks, and a small information center. The beautiful and well-marked Plant Discovery Garden was especially impressive — Nate and I couldn’t stop photographing the lush orchids. And in the slideshow you’ll also come across some obligatory photos with “The Sepilok Giant.”

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