Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

My last post on Malaysia was about Mount Kinabalu. Now that this part of the trip was complete I could relax. Walking was a different matter. My legs were sore. Beyond sore. Many people would stop me to ask what was wrong or if I needed help. I wish they could have helped but I knew the only thing that would make my legs feel better was time and some stretching. Later that day we bumped into two others who climbed with us. One of them looked as sore as I was and that made me feel better. The Better Half never had a limp and didn’t seem tired at all.

Our first post-Kinabalu activity was a trip to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in the Malaysian Sabah District of North Borneo. This facility was founded in 1964 and the purpose is to rehabilitate orphan orangutans. It has 43 sq km of protected land on the outskirts of the Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. Currently, approximately 60-80 orangutans are living in the reserve. The centre provides medical care for orphaned or confiscated orangutans and some other species, including gibbons, sun bears, Sumatran rhinos, and elephants. The facility provides food that is repetitive and boring on purpose to push the animals to look for food themselves.

File0003This centre is a place for education for visitors and the locals. No visitor can approach or touch the animals. Also there is a restricted walkway. The charge is RM 30.00 and there is a RM 10.00 fee to bring in a camera. The feeding times are 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. There is no guarantee that you will see an orangutan.

In the wild, mothers tend their young for around six years and teach them basic skills so they can survive on their own. At the rehab center, they pair a younger ape with an older one to help teach them. Many babies are rescued from areas that are being logged or cleared. Some have been saved after poachers killed the adults. The Malaysian government has clamped down on illegal trading, and now imposes prison sentences to those who keep them as pets.

A decade ago the population was approximately 27,000. Now they think the number is 15,000. Their land is encroached upon forcing them to higher elevations that aren’t as fertile. Since males are solitary they require large areas for survival. And they can catch human illnesses including polio, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. To be blunt the orangutans are critically endangered.

Now that I’ve delivered the depressing news, how about some photos of these wonderful creatures.

For more information, please visit this site.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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40 Responses to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

  1. frizztext says:

    heart touching …

  2. This was a very informative post which I really enjoyed because I loveeeeee monkeys, but damn that Better Half for not being stiff at all. That’s just not right! I sure hope the Better Half was sympathetic and didn’t laugh at you :).

    • TBM says:

      Oh there was some laughing. No one laughed during the climb and my misery, but after, my walk was quite odd. And every time I had to climb stairs, oh it was horrible. It wasn’t only the better half. we spent 3 days with three other couples at one of the resorts. They found it comical as well.

  3. aFrankAngle says:

    Awesome …. but an extra fee for a camera? Does that include phones?

  4. i’ve always had a soft spot for orangutans. i’m glad you were able to get such great pictures! i’ve never seen them in the wild, but we have some in the zoo here. i dread the day zoos are the only places they live 😦

    • TBM says:

      I dread that day as well, but the way things are heading, many of the animals in the wild will only be found in zoos. Such a shame. I’ve been lucky enough to see so many animals in the wild and I wish every could not only now, but a hundred years from now.

  5. Anna says:

    What a nice picture with the mother and baby orangutan! Glad to see you visited Sepilok! It’s very sad to see what’s happening to all the orangutans. I can imagine the way you’ve been walking, I had real problems with stairs after climbing Mount Kinabalu!

    • TBM says:

      I hate hearing the statistics about these animals. I listen, but I hate hearing them. I hope your legs didn’t take too long to recover from the climb. It does make me feel better that you were tired as well.

  6. Amazing creatures and I’m sure I’ve seen a documentary about this centre. Hope the legs didn’t take too long to get back to relative normality 😦

    • TBM says:

      I had heard about this place and I was so excited to visit it. As for the legs–they took longer than I wanted them to. Each day was a bit better though.

  7. Very informative post. Love that last photo!

  8. Letizia says:

    What an amazing experience you had! These photos are great. These are truly noble beings and it’s so wonderful that they are being rehabilitated with such love and care.

  9. bocafrau says:

    Look at all those great pictures. I love watching monkeys and apes. A long time ago, we were really lucky at a zoo in Germany where a Gorilla mom had a baby. It was amazing to see her care for the baby…

  10. samokan says:

    the species called humans are doing this. sad but it’s a great thing of what they are doing here. Kudos to the organization and beautiful pictures, as always 🙂

  11. Pingback: The Amazing Kinabatangan River | 50 Year Project

  12. Caroline says:

    They are so cute. They look so gentle.

  13. Did you get to see other animals looked after by the reserve? Really hope orangutans have a future to look forward to – seems like their is so much sad news about endangered species these days (their is talk that most elephants and lions will be gone in ten years time). Amazing animals

    • TBM says:

      We didn’t see the other animals. You can only walk on the wooden walkway–and I totally understand why. And I can’t believe that some people don’t or refuse to understand that their actions are killing off certain species for good. It makes me sick to think that in 50 years so many of these wonderful creatures who have roamed the earth for years and years will only live in zoos.

  14. poppytump says:

    Some lovely photos here, particularly the ones with the Mum and baby TBM .

  15. Fergiemoto says:

    Very informative and cute photos!
    It’s sad to see their habitat diminishing.

  16. This must have been an amazing visit. When the worker put the food out, does he purposely hide to give them privacy to eat? (That’s the way it looks in the photos.)
    I once met a special orangutan at the San Diego Zoo. When I put my hands up to the glass, he put his hands to the glass and we sat that way for a few minutes. He looked right into my eyes. It was a very moving experience.

    • TBM says:

      I think the worker is trying to become invisible since the real goal of this place is to reintroduce the animals to the wild. That does sound like an amazing experience at the zoo. I wonder what both of you were thinking.

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