This weeks ‘wildlife Wednesday’ features Chad and Corina from Adventure filled life. Passionate about natural landscapes and travel, their blog focuses on their adventures around Asia and Europe, although the rest of the world is on the cards. We caught up recently as they were keen to share their story about finding orangutan in the wild.
We’ve spoken briefly about your animal encounters while on the road, which have been your favourite to see in their natural environment and why?
My favorite animal to see in the wild has to be the orangutan. I generally hate monkeys as they can be quite aggressive and unpredictable. From my experience, orangutans are generally more easy-going and keep to themselves. Also, their unique appearance is one of the reasons why I love them so much. When I heard about the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in Sandakan, Malaysia I knew I had to go!
How did it make you feel, finding orangutan in the wild and being able to see them up close in their own home?
It was very exciting to see the monkeys winging and playing in the trees. You can tell that they are very happy and live an unrestricted life. It was my first time seeing baby orangutan which was so cute! Sandakan is an amazing place, although far out of the normal travel routes. If you have the chance I would definitely recommend a trip here!
What made you choose this particular orangutan rehabilitation center?
We decided to go to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center because we heard that they focus more on the rehabilitation than making money. The orangutans are not caged here are free to come and go as they please. The end goal is to let them get used to living in the jungle until they finally decide to stop coming back to the Sepilok base for food. This ideally means that they have come to fend for themselves in nature.
Had you seen them before in a zoo/sanctuary? How did it compare?
My first memory of orangutans was when I was 5 or 6 years old at a zoo in Southern California. They had a massive orangutan at the zoo who must have been quite old at that point. I remember watching him sit on a rock while eating and playing with his food. I have loved orangutans ever since my first encounter with them. They have very expressive eyes and seem quite intelligent and resourceful. Before I went to Sepilok I never really thought about their life in the wild. The Orangutans I had seen in Zoos had been elderly, slow-moving, and docile. The ones I saw in nature were quite different, however. Watching them fly through the trees showed their great agility and strength. And the one naughty orangutan who launched his stream of pee at the tourists invading his turf brought laughter to all of us at the park that day.
Animal tourism has become a big thing over the years. Have you had any experiences that looking back on, you feel weren’t very ethical, you perhaps wouldn’t do again or any that you wouldn’t recommend to other, what was it and why?
Yes of course! I went to Indonesia many years ago and took photos with a 1-year-old lion. The zoo workers claimed that he was tired because he had just eaten a large meal. Looking back I now know that was untrue and that animal drugging is something that happens ‘behind the scenes’ at many of the animal photo experiences that tourists pay into.
What advice would you give other travellers looking to find orangutan in the wild for themselves?
If you’re looking to see orangutans in the wild, I highly recommend checking out the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center – or any other centre that seeks to introduce them back into the wild. I feel a great deal of pity for the apes in zoos – even the most well-intentioned zoos place them in incredibly small concrete cages.
Do you have any advice on being an ethical traveller?
I think that education is a very important part of tourism, and encourage everyone to critically look into these animal experiences before participating. I think that the mindset of a traveller should always be changing and evolving towards the positive. Always seek to bring positivity to the places you visit and leave them a tiny bit better than they were before.
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So glad to hear that at this rehabilitation center, their goal is to get the orangutans familiar enough with the jungle again that they don’t come back any longer. It must have been an incredible experience to see the orangutans up close and natural.
I haven’t seen orangutans in the wild and would love to. While I’m not into zoos, I am a fan of rehabilitation centers that really focus on making life better for those they care for, and with the end result that they will be set free. Putting Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center on my list!
Really great post and what an experience. I love how this place aims to get the orangutans to leave on their own. I hope to have this experience one day.
This had to be such a cool experience! 🙂 Loving these tips on how to be a more ethical traveler.
Thank you for the Interview guys! I look forward to reading more of your Wildlife Wednesday posts!