Saturday, July 7, 2012


A baby orangutan hangs high above the ground in Semenggoh Nature Reserve.
Ever wanted to see an orangutan in the jungle? If so, Borneo's the place to do it.

Home to more than 90 percent of the world's orangutan population, Borneo is the only spot, other than the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where the ginger-colored apes live in the wild.
Since Kip often acts like a big ape, at least according to his lovely wife, he really wanted to see one, perhaps to look for behavioral similarities, perhaps to learn a few new circus tricks for his ever-growing repertoire. We also felt it would be a fitting tribute to the species itself, since Duchess, the oldest Bornean orangutan in North America, died just the week before in the Phoenix Zoo (from cancer at the age of 52).

From Kuching, we hopped a bus to the Semenggoh Wildlife Center less than an hour south. Since 1975, the Center has taken in orangutans and other animals that have either been orphaned, found injured in the forest, or were previously kept as illegal pets. It's now one of the best places on the planet to get up close and personal with wild orangutans.
Feeding time in Borneo's Semenggoh Nature Reserve. Kip has since tried, quite unsuccessfully, to eat like this.
There are no cages or fences, so wildlife sightings aren't guaranteed. However, regular feeding times provide fairly predictable wildlife viewing opportunities while ensuring the orangutans have the food they need until they're able to fend for themselves in the Semmengoh Nature Reserve, which conveniently surrounds the Center. We got extremely lucky during our visit when a female walked slowly out of the trees carrying her recently-born baby on her back. As Mom ate, the curious baby climbed down and, after a few glances up at his mother to make sure he was OK, started playing like a little kid at his first visit to a playground. 

Fun times.

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