We’ve been looking forward to this part of our trip and we weren’t let down. We spent one day at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. They take in injured, orphaned and abandoned pet orangutans and rehab them so they can one day return to the wild. It’s set in the jungle with a few long walk ways leading to a feeding area and to a nursery, both with viewing platforms. Not long after we entered the sanctuary, the trees started to shake and about 10 m from us was our first orangutan, swinging along the vines. It was thrilling!
Then at the feeding area, we saw some moms with babies. They arrived swinging from branch to branch and along vines with their babies clutching to them. Development timelines are similar to humans so the 2 year old could barely walk or climb and the 4 year old was more daring with his climbing, but still never far from mom. Walking around the site we saw a few more juvenile males trying to exert their status, but we didn’t see any mature males as they stay far away, deep in the jungle.
Orangutans (translates to ‘man of the forest’) are really quick and nimble, and their fingers are able to grasp, and manipulate. At lunch one of the tourists had his camera stolen by a sneaky female orangutan. She grabbed it and climbed up a tree with it where she was able to take off the lens and proceeded to dismantle it into pieces!
The nursery is a laugh a minute. Here, they teach orphaned orangutans how to climb, fight and find food so eventually they can take care of themselves. The young orangutans were so fun to watch, climbing, swinging, somersaulting and wrestling. They really are not that dissimilar from us!
Next to the Orangutan centre is the Sun Bear Conservation Centre. The Sun Bear is the world’s smallest bear, just bigger than a teddy bear, but otherwise look like a bear. Their other distinguishing feature is a cream coloured ring under their neck, giving them the name sun bear. The bears are at risk because in China their gall bladder bile is believed to have medicinal properties, making poaching a big problem. The sun bears have long claws that make them great tree climbers. We saw quite a few of them high up in the trees at the centre. They’re cute, but still bears so I wouldn’t want to run into one in the jungle.
The next day we spent at the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. Much of the jungle in this area has been stripped for palm tree plantations. The sanctuary is a privately owned complex which provides a safe jungle for these monkeys to live. They feed them 4 times a day since most of their natural jungle has been lost. Theses monkeys are the funniest looking things we’ve ever seen. The males’ noses are so large they look like Muppets!
The females choose their male by the size of his nose, so the one with the largest nose has a harem of females and other, less fortunate males form bachelor troops. The females and juvenile males have smaller, but still big turned up noses. On top of that they all have big pot bellies and the males are constantly aroused! We were able to see so many of these monkeys at the centre, each more hilarious than the next!
We took a late afternoon cruise on the Kinabatangan River. We’re using the term ‘cruise’ very loosely as we were in a small local fishing boat. We slowly meandered up a tributary of the river. It was narrow with many overhanging branches and water lilies filling in the shores, the perfect setting to see animals and birds.
Not far in we started to see troops of Pig Tailed Macaque monkeys. They were easy to spot as they jumped from branch to branch with dramatic landings on the branches below. One troop we stopped to watch were pulling full water lily plants out of the river and eating the roots. They used all of their might to pull these plants up, balancing on their hind legs. There was also a group of Silver Leaf monkeys, but they are really aggressive so we mostly kept our distance.
We saw 3 of the beautiful, bright blue Stork Billed Kingfishers. They have bright blue wings and a bright gold chest with a long red beak. Their beak is almost as long as they are tall! We also spotted a Malay Fish Owl and a few hornbills, but all were very far away.
Finally, we were excited to see a few troops of proboscis monkeys but they stayed high in the trees so we were glad we saw them close up at the Sanctuary the day before.
For more pics from our blogs go to Gallery at monkeystale.ca