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Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre

A Young Orangutan
The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, a survival training ground for the orphaned orangutans, was established in 1964. This centre is currently managed by the Wildlife Department of Sabah. It's other objective is to raise public awareness on the importance of conservation, research & development and safeguarding of other endangered animals.
The history in the establishment of the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary in Sabah started in 1961 when Mr. P.F. Burgess, the then Deputy Conservator of Forest of North Borneo (Sabah's name before joining the Federation of Malaysia in 1963) proposed the project. He was the person who established the game  branch  within  the  Forest Department and was also one of the key persons in the drafting of the Fauna Conservation Ordinance, 1963.

Later, the wife of the Curator of Sarawak Museum, Barbara Harrisson, took pity on the many young Orangutans which were caged and kept by local people as pets, and started to rescue them. From there, the idea to set up a proper training ground for these animals so that they can learn to take care of themselves and re-adapt to the wild grew.

In 1962, just after World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was formed, Harrisson who received a backing from this organization came to Sabah and revealed that orangutans were in danger of extinction and must be protected. Under the Fauna Conservation Ordinance, 1963, Orangutan in Sabah is a protected animal and anyone found to be keeping it without a license is committing a crime.

Orangutans in the Learning Process

The rehabilitation process begins when an orangutan is brought to the centre. Many of them are taken from people who keep them illegally while others are adults that are injured or sick and need medical attention. These adult orangutans will be given proper treatment and once they have recovered, will be sent back to the wild.

Upon orangutans arrival at the centre, they will be given a complete health check-up. Then, they will  undergo a 3 to 6 months quarantine. This quarantine is necessary because diseases that cannot be detected immediately may be passed to other orangutans. The check-up comprises of tests for TB and Malaria, urine analysis, bacteriology and chest X-ray. After the quarantine, medical staff will assessed them before deciding whether to place them for the whole programme or straight away to stage two or three.

A study has been done by scientists and they observed that the mother of young orangutans will teach their babies all the necessary survival skills in the first five years of the babies' life. Orangutans that have been captured and kept as pets do not know where and how to look for their own food, climb the tree and build a proper nest. This is where the wildlife staff will come in and play their roles. Wildlife rangers will teach baby orang utans all the important skills such as learning how to use their limbs and climbing trees properly. There are two phases or learning platforms for orangutans;

Platform A
This is the "Outward Bound School" for orangutans. The centre will provide all food and emotional support for them and when they show progress, these support will be gradually reduced. Little by little they will be given more freedom and are encouraged to be independent, like taking food and climbing trees on their own.

Platform B
When orangutans have shown signs of independence and know how to fend themselves, this is the last phase of training before they are sent back to the jungle. In this phase, they are given little food and feeding is also given at a location much further from where the centre is located. Since the establishment of this centre, more than 100 orangutans have been released into the jungle.
Acknowledgement: All pictures are taken from http://www.sabah.edu.my/srm012.wcdd/BM/menu1.html

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