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photo's Annelies Wigman

"The staff laid out fruit and tried to ‘call’ the orangutans and suddenly a rope high up in the tree began to wobble and one arrived, followed shortly after by a mum and tiny baby and finally a huge male! I then went along the path to the second feeding area and another mum and baby arrived! I would have been happy with one, but six was incredible. There were probably around 40 people there but it is so open (especially the first feeding area) and there was plenty of room to stand, watch and get photos."

Welcome to Semenggoh

The Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is the biggest Orang utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sarawak; established in 1975 as a sanctuary for the injured and orphaned orang utans. Together with the Sepilok Orang utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah this is the most well known rehabilitation center for tourists to visit. Tourists should not mistake both Semenggoh and Sepilok as actual tourist attractions; both wildlife centers are intended to rehabilitate orangutans and educate visitors at the same time. The centre is situated within the boundaries of the Semenggoh Nature Reserve, approximately 24 km from Kuching.

When established, the three main aims of the Centre were:

• To rehabilitate wild animals who have been injured, orphaned in the wild or handicapped by
• prolonged captivity, with the objective of subsequently releasing them back to the wild.
• To conduct research on wildlife and captive breeding programmes for endangered species.
• To educate visitors and the general public about the importance of conservation.

As a result of its success, Semenggoh’s role has changed and it is nowadays a centre for the study of orang utan biology and behaviour, as well as a safe and natural haven for dozens of semi-wild orang utan, graduates of the rehabilitation programme. It is also home to numerous baby orang utan, born in the wild to rehabilitated mothers, a further testament to the success of the programme.

Een Orang Oetan gaat naar het platform.

The best time to visit Semenggoh is during the morning and afternoon feeding sessions when there is a good chance of seeing semi-wild orang utan returning to the Centre for a free meal. Feeding takes place between 9.00-10.00am and between 3.00-3.30 pm.

On occasions, the orang utan may descend from the trees near the Centre HQ and approach visitors. Although this is likely to be an unforgettable experience, visitors should bear in mind that the orang utan, however tame they may appear, are still wild, powerful and potentially dangerous animals. The Centre is also part of a Totally Protected Area. Therefore the following rules & regulations must be observed when visiting the centre.

  • Do not hold, feed, touch, play with or in any way disturb the orang utan, and always move at least six metres away from an animal that is on the ground. There are three very good reasons for this. Firstly, the animals may become too attached to humans, making it harder for them to survive in the wild. Secondly humans are able to communicate certain diseases to orang utan, and vice-versa. By eliminating contact the possibility of disease transfer is reduced. Thirdly, an orang utan may feel threatened and attempt to attack you – some of the Semenggoh wardens carry ugly scars from protecting thoughtless visitors from injury.

  • Do not bring any food or drinks into the Centre. The orang utan and other animals at the centre already receive a balanced diet, and the smell of food may encourage an animal to approach too closely.

  • Do not smoke in the feeding area or any other part of the Forest Reserve.

  • Do follow the warden’s instructions and advice at all times.

  • Do not collect, or pick plants or animals in Semenggoh Nature Reserve, or in any other Totally Protected Area.

  • Do not litter. Please use the litter bins provided.

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Almost all of the food they eat grows in the treetops and the frequent rains fill the leaves thus supplying their drinking water. When water is difficult to get, they chew leaves to make a sponge to soak up water in tree cavities. When it rains very hard the orang utan makes an umbrella for himself out of big leaves.

Cute, cuddly, gentle and endangered, that's pongo pygmaeus better known to the world as orang utan. They have a brown and rust-coloured shaggy fur.
Orang utan means "the man of the forest" in Malay. In times past they didn't kill them because they felt the orang utan was simply a person hiding in the trees, trying to avoid having to go to work or become a slave.
Orang Utans are the largest tree-living mammals and these fascinating and very human ginger apes gave rise to the legend of the Wild Man of Borneo.

Females have a body weight of 37kg, and males weigh 83kg and their life span is about 60 years. The orang utan lives in tropical, swamp and mountain forests, where it eats mostly fruit, leaves and insects.


Wachten op de Orang Oetans
Waiting for the Orang Utans

The major causes of the orang-utan's decline have been:

1.   in the past, capture for the pet and zoo trade, especially the capture of young, which usually involved killing the mother.
2.   loss of habitat loss, especially through permanent conversion to oil-palm plantations and for logging.

Eating at the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre



   Ben van Wijnen


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