I’m still buzzing from being just steps away from a couple of orangutans in the Sarawak region of Malaysia, western Borneo (semi-wild). Humans are close relatives, sharing more than 95% of DNA with humans, and you could tell. They’re rare and were fascinating to watch.
I actually saw orang-utans twice earlier in my trip, but they were so far away that it just looked like shadowy ape-like figure in the tree with a slightly reddish/brown color. It was exciting at the time, but turned out to be just an appetizer for this experience.
I went to Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, a temporary home for various endangered wildlife of Sarawak, especially orang-utans that were rescued from captivity. There’s no bars or cages – the orangutans come and go as they please, and they help train them with basic skills that they would have learned with the goal of re-initroducing them into the wild. Visitors can have a chance to see them at twice daily feeding times. Since I already saw that earlier in my trip, I’ll skip to the good part.
I was on my way out of the park when we spotted an orangutan right near us, and continuing to approach. Wow!
Quick facts on Orangutans (that I found interesting):
- You might think their name comes from the color of their fur (appears orange at times), but that’s not correct. The word orangutan is derived from two malay words: ‘orang’ = ‘man’ (people), and ‘hutan’ meaning ‘forest’
- Our closest relatives: The orangutan is a member of the Great Apes, which also includes humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas (chimps are not monkeys).
- The major difference between Great Apes and monkeys: apes do not have tails.
- There’s 2 species of Orangutans: Sumatran (found in northern Sumatra, island of Indonesia) and Bornean, aka Pongo Pigmaeus
- Population – there are estimated to be just 30-50,000 orangutans in the wild
- Orangutans are big, the largest tree dwelling mammals in the world. The females are 75-110 lbs, 3’9-4’2. The males are typically twice that weight, at 110-220 lbs, 4’6-4’7 feet.
- They spend nearly their entire day in the trees, 20-100 feet off the ground.
Eat, sleep, play: Their typical day revolves around eating, resting, and moving between eating and resting sites. Outstanding! Day travel ranges from a few hundred feet, to as much as nearly two miles (half mile on average). They make a new nest every night.
Solitary Creatures: males primarily live alone and only come together with females for mating. Adult females live with their offspring when their young.
What have you been eating?? Their diet is 60% fruit. In addition they also eat some plants, flowers, bark, ants, caterpillars, fungi, spiders, termites, and more.
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If you’ve been reading this blog, by now you’ve realized that I’m fascinated by wild life. Outside of deers in the woods behind my yard growing up, the only wild life I experienced was the Bronx Zoo (still one of the most impressive zoos I’ve been to!). This was memorable!
I thought that might be the only time I was that close to anything so human-like in the wild, but little did I know that the very next day I discovered Probiscus Monkeys in the Borneo wild!
Other amazing baby wildlife from my trip included seeing baby elephants and baby monkeys in Borneo were adorable! I also saw other types of animals up close - tarsiers, macaques, proboscis monkeys, sharks, pythons, camels, and more!