Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo was established with the aim of helping orphaned, injured and displaced orangutans learn to survive in the wild. It was founded in 1964, in order to rehabilitate orphan orangutans in a protected land at the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve.
What do they do?
Recently rehabilitated individuals have their diet supplemented by daily feedings of milk and bananas. The additional food supplied by the center is purposefully designed to be monotonous and boring so as to encourage the apes to start to forage for themselves.
Sepilok is considered by the Wildlife Department to be a useful educational tool with which to educate both the locals and visitors alike, but they are adamant that the education must not interfere with the rehabilitation process. Visitors are restricted to walkways and are not allowed to approach or handle the apes.
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 creation of reserve areas minimizes the impact of deforestation on orangutans and far fewer young apes become the victim of the illegal pet trade as a result of these ‘sanctuaries’. Babies are often caught during logging or forest clearance or captured by poachers who slaughter the adult apes to reach them. The Malaysian Government has clamped down on illegal trading, outlawing all such practice and imposing prison sentences on anyone caught keeping them as pets.
Youngsters kept in captivity often become sick or suffer neglect which in some cases extends to cruelty. Whilst some of the orangutans raised as pets can never be returned to the wild, others can be rehabilitated; it is a long and expensive process, taking up to seven years but one centers such as Sepilok take on without question.
EXO Foundation support
Since 2019, EXO Foundation is now a corporate gold partner of the charity OrangUtan Appeal supporting the management and development of the Sepilok OrangUtan Rehabilitation center.