Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, North Borneo was founded in 1964, to rehabilitate orphaned orangutans.
Today around 60 to 80 orangutans are living free in this protected reserve located on the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. Around 25 young orphaned orangutans are housed in the nurseries, in addition to those free in the reserve.
The facility provides medical care for orphaned and confiscated orangutans as a result of illegal logging and deforestation and those who have been illegally caught and kept as pets. Other animals have also been treated at the centre including sun bears, gibbons, and elephants.
The new arrivals are given a complete health check before starting on the long road to rehabilitating them back into the wild. This process takes up to seven years. Baby orangutans are cared for 24 hours a day, and as they grow older they join their peers in the nursery and at night they are housed indoors for their safety.
Recently rehabilitated individuals have their diet supplemented by daily feedings. The additional food supplied by the centre is purposefully designed to be monotonous and boring so as to encourage the apes to start to forage for themselves.
In the wild orangutan babies stay with their mothers for up to six years while they are taught the skills they need to survive in the forest, the most important of which is climbing. At Sepilok a buddy system is used to replace a mother’s teaching. A younger ape will be paired up with an older one to help them to develop the skills they need.
The centre allows visitors in to see these beautiful animals, however visitors are restricted to walkways and are not allowed to approach or handle the apes.