Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan is, in essence, a sanctuary for orphan Bornean orangutans preparing them for life back in the jungle. As the jungle is being decimated daily, first for logging then for palm oil, whether or not they will have a home is still under debate around the world.
But I digress, this is all about the animals, not the politics (Monkey World Director Dr Alison Cronin has taught me well).
I hasten to add, Sepilok is not the ONLY rehabilitation centre in Borneo, there are others such as those supported by International Animal Rescue and Centre for Orangutan Protection in the southern states. Those are not open to the public and they do a lot of wonderful unsung work there - my adopted orangutan rescue Gito is with International Animal Rescue in Ketapang. I will never meet or see Gito in the flesh (or fur) but I know he is well and thriving and has a safe home with IAR.
So, back to Sepilok; after a 3.30am alarm call and a hairy drive through the remnants of a tropical storm, I boarded the flight for Sandakan. After a timely flight and prompt pickup by my SDN driver I was whisked off to Sepilok, abuzz with nervous tension and anticipation.
The way trips are organised here is madness, so many tour operators using the same resources, so drivers are picking up and dropping off tourists all over the place. I was collected with a couple from another flight, but when we got to Sepilok we had to wait for the rest of our party who were being delivered by another driver....
Oh, you want to see Orangutans - not read my boring journal?...ok :-)
First the babies in the nursery - very young orphan orangutans, learning to fly and dangle, what is good to eat and what is not...
And then the juvenile feeding, as they grow orangutans become darker and their faces change shape, depending on their gender.
And finally, after all the excitement of the centre, while we were having lunch - we spotted a WILD orangutan with her juvenile in the canopy, hoorah!! We played spot the ginger for a while, she was very good at staying hidden...
Next - Sun Bears