Asia’s only great ape, the orang-utan or ‘man of the forest’ is found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Globally classified as endangered due to their habitat being destroyed, fragmented and poaching, orang-utans in Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) are probably best classed as ‘vulnerable’. Much of their prime habitat has been converted to plantations and the rate of habitat loss has hit a very low level in recent years. There is almost no hunting of this species in Malaysia, and most of the remaining populations are found in forests that are protected or under natural forest management.
Borneo is unique in that it has three distinct populations or subspecies of orang-utans:
- Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus (northwest populations)
- Pongo pygmaeus morio (northeast and east populations)
- Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii (southwest populations)
Orang-utans in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak occur mainly in the lowlands. In Sarawak, there are about 1,300 orang-utans, This decline in their numbers in the last twenty years was caused by planned conversion of forests to plantations in the eastern lowlands.
Physical and species description
Orang-utans generally have brown and rust-coloured shaggy fur. Weighing in at an average of 50 kg, female orang-utans grow to about 1.1 m in height and weigh 30 - 50 kg. Males weigh 50-90 kg and stand 1.2 - 1.5 m tall.
The Orang Utans
For over 20 years, the wardens at Semenggoh Nature Reserve have been training young orangutans, who had been orphaned or rescued from captivity, how to survive in the wild. The success of this programme has left the surrounding forest reserve with a thriving population of healthy adolescent and young adult orangutans, who are now breeding in the wild. The programme has since been transferred to Matang Wildlife Centre, but Semenggoh Nature Reserve is still home to its successful graduates, semi-wild orangutans and their babies. They spend most of their time roaming the forest but frequently come back to the Centre for a free meal. If it is the fruiting season in the forest, some or even all of them may not come to feed. This in itself is a good sign and another step on the way to full rehabilitation.
The best time to visit Semenggoh is during the morning and afternoon feeding sessions when there is a good chance of seeing semi-wild orangutan returning to the Centre for a free meal. Feeding takes place between 9.00-10.00am and between 3.00-4.00 pm. However there will be times when they won’t appear owing to abundant fruits in the jungle. At times, they may seem to appear during the actual feeding hour. Those who lingered on taking advantage of the gallery and and the forest may be rewarded by a late showing of the orangutans.
Other things to do at the Nature Reserve are; learn about the ape in the Orangutan Gallery, visit the Interpretation Area or the Botanical Research Center. There are crocodile and gibbon enclosure for that dramatic close-up experience, a morbid one for sure at the crocodile enclosure.
The highlight species are: Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, Bornean Black-magpie, Long-billed Partridge, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Red-naped Trogan, Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Rufous-collared Kingfisher, Banded Kingfisher, Red-crowned Barbet, Red-throated barbet, Malaysian Honeyguide, Rufous Piculet, Hooded Pitta, Banded broadbill, Green Broadbill, Blue-winged Leafbird, Asian paradise Flycatcher, Crested jay, Reddish Scops Owl, Brown Hawk Owl, Sunda Frogmouth & etc.