Coming face to face with Pongo, now that was something. He’s family, so I knew a bit about him. But we’d never actually met before.
When I saw him for the first time I could see the resemblance straight away. The facial expressions and the way he stands. But we’ve grown apart, like many modern families, I suppose. In fact it’s been fourteen million years since we had a common ancestor. But Pongo Pygmaeus (his formal name) better known to you and I as orangutan, shares 97% of human DNA. And it shows.
The great ape is only found in Sumatra or here in Borneo. But they are seriously endangered. It’s estimated just over 40,000 still remain on the island. Huge scale logging (legal and illegal) is destroying their habitat. The conversion of huge tracts of forest to palm oil plantations has also devastated their traditional areas. It’s appalling to witness the pace of rainforest destruction.
I did see a few orangutans in the wild but to be honest the best place to watch them is at either Semmengoh or Sepilok rehabilitation centres. Both rescue orphaned orangutans with the aim of releasing them back into the forest. They are both very successful.
After release, some Orangutans turn up at the centres for fruit, which is provided twice a day. The food is deliberately monotonous so as to encourage them to stay away and find it for themselves in the forests.
Borneo teems with amazing wildlife, some of which is found nowhere else on earth, so enough of the words, I hope you enjoy the photos. (Note: Big thanks to Isabel Rybuschka and Simon Staiger for the picture of the very rare and elusive pygmy elephant – I left my camera on charge in the room. Idiot).
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