Anyone keen to take a closer look at the orang utan in its natural habitat? While the initial encounter may scare some but the amusing antics of the orang utan is bound to awe any spectator.
Recently a group of journalist accompanying Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said to the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok, Sabah, had the opportunity to get a closer look at the orang utan outside the enclosure. The rehabilitation centre located in a jungle covering 4,294 hectares was opened in 1964. It is now the sanctuary for more than 300 orang utan.
According to the group's guide, Mark Louis Benedict, studies conducted by the Sabah Wildlife Department in 2004, with the assistance of several non-govermental organisations, revealed that there were about 13,000 orang utan in Sabah.
Because its habitat has been threatened by logging activities, the centre plays a big role in ensuring the survival of this ape species.
Here the orang utan is not only rehabilitated but the habitat is protected as well.
Sabah Wildlife Department's Director Laurentius Ambu explained that the centre also rehabilitates orang utan kept as pets and returns them to the wild when they are ready.
The centre also works to rescue orphaned baby orang utans and nurtures them until they are ready to be released to the wild, he said while accompanying Azalina during the visit from 5-7 July.
As the centre is located on the fringes of Kabili-Sepilok forest reserve, about 25km from Sandakan, visitors have the opportunity to view the rich flora that include flowering plants, dipterocarp trees and wild fruits.
The jungle is also the habitat for 217 bird species, 70 mammal species and not less than 400 tree species.
Visitors too can spot other protected animals like bats, monkeys, bears, wild cats and crocodiles that live in the reserve.
SUNGAI KINABATANGAN WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
The group than proceeded to the Sungai Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary to observe the orang utan in the wild. The group cruised along the Sungai Kinabatangan, the 560km long river is the second longest river in Malaysia, and enjoyed the panoramic view.
The river serves as an important asset for tourism activities, that in turn generate economic returns for the locals.
The compelling attractions at the sanctuary draw local and foreign visitors in droves, said Mark.
On the average between 80 and 100 tourists come to the sanctuary daily with the orang utan being the star attraction. They want to get a closer look of the orang utan that is only found in Borneo.
Visitors can also catch a glimpse of other wild animals in the area.
CONSERVING NATURAL HERITAGE
Other than the orang utan, the 27,000 hectares forest reserve is also the home to nine monkey species among others the slow loris, gibbon and macaque.
There are at least 106 bird species, 40 mammal species and four reptile species.
The orang utan move in groups and can easily be spotted as they prefer to swing from high branches near the river banks.
Visitors can count on their blessings if they come across the rare pygmy elephants.
There are five tour operators who provide chalets along the Sungai Kinabatangan, including the Sukau Rainforest Lodge and the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge.
Also, visitors to the sanctuary can arrive by boats or by trekking through the jungle.
A CAPTIVATING PANORAMA
Visitors will be captivated by the sight of orang utan in the wild and the beauty of the river surrounded by the jungles.
Kampung Sukau serves as the gateway for the sanctuary that opened its doors in 1984, said Mark. The village that takes a two-hour drive from Sandakan to reach is within five-minute walk to the sanctuary.
From Kota Kinabalu, the visitors keen to head to the sanctuary can take a 40 minute flight to Sandakan or a ride on land vehicle that takes almost four hours to reach.