Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Orang Utan of Sepilok

According to the Chinese lunar calender, the new year begins on 8 February 2016. As this is the year of the monkey, I scoured through my archives of images from a trip, a few years back to Sandakan in Sabah (formerly known as North Borneo). One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilation Centre besides the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.

Orang utan are primates living in the Malaysia-Indonesia region. In the indigenous languages, Hutan or utan means forest while Orang means Man. Literally, it means 'Man of the forest'. These half-men have fur with a distinct reddish tinge.

This signboard at the entrance indicates the feeding times for the Orang Utans at 11.00am and 3.00pm everyday. These are the times where visitors and tourists throng the place to watch the feeding sessions.

Rustic weather-beaten moss-covered boardwalk makes trekking into the the feeding area a breeze. There is no fear of stepping on leeches, uneven terrain or slippery slopes, particularly during the rainy season. Surprisingly, in spite of the dense vegetation, we were not bitten by any vampire insects (mosquitoes or mozzies).

Gnarled vines, stems and roots intertwined chaotically in this verdant rain forest.

The rich bio-diversity of the Borneo rain forest makes it an ideal habitat for these primates.

Ropes are provided for these arboreal primates to swing from their habitats to the feeding platform.

This one must be middle-aged as he appeared dark with most his red hair defoliated. He was suspended on the rope for a long time, swinging to and fro in mid-air.  I thought that as wise and wizened as he was, he should be pondering the ways and laws of the jungle ...

when a young red-haired Orang Utan winged jauntily past in a purposeful direction.

Not to to be outdone, he immediately followed suit. Until then I didn't know that the 'kiasu' mentality was also prevalent amongst them. 'Kiasu' means afraid of losing out - a derogatory term widely used in Malaysia and Singapore to describe a go-getter. 

However it is not necessarily bad. When this trait is viewed positively, it can also mean a person who is goal-driven and determine to succeed.

Their destination is a platform built halfway up a tall tree where feeding sessions were held at the stated scheduled times.

Here they are offered a healthy diet of tropical fruits. Watermelons are a top favourite to quench their thirst ... 

besides sugar-canes, and the all-time favourite; sun-ripened bananas.

Table manners are unheard of, as they chewed, munched and masticated voraciously.

Soon, some 'red-butt' monkeys arrived to jump on the food bandwagon.

They picked up the pieces and leftovers from the careless bigger primates.

Having grabbed a foot-long piece of sugar-cane, this monkey settled down in a nook to feast and indulge.


Talking of sugarcane, I'm reminded of these sweet words of wisdom:
"Relationship with a nice person is like a sugarcane
You break it, crush it, squeeze it ..., even beat it or grind it, 
Still you will get only Sweetness!

Their sharp teeth come in useful for stripping off the tough outer covering.

A hostile glare means "shoo off, you are not welcome to my hoard!".

Nearby, a female feasted daintily.

Having satiated their apetite, they are now back to their cozy haven in the jungle, but not without some take-aways for the journey home.

There are no rules against eating along the way so eventually they develop multi-tasking skills.

Taken to the extreme, this show-off chewed on two sugar-canes, one in each hand while swinging with the legs along the tie-rope.

An old rainforest tree supports a variety of vegetation, mostly ferns and other parasitic plants besides a hosting a milieu of fauna activities.

We jetted to Sandakan in this colourful Air Asia plane.

"Happy Spring Festival" and "Gong Xi Fa Cai" 

"Monkeys are superior to men in this;
when a monkey looks into a mirror, he sees a monkey"
 ~ Malcolm de Chazal


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