Dave in Thailand Borneo! - Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

The Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is one of three places in Sarawak that takes care of Orang-utans (the name means forest man in one of the local dialects), rescuing them from zoos or wherever, and trying to get them acclimated to return to the jungle. In the centre there are no cages - the orangs are free, swinging in the trees, and the people can only get within a hundred yards or so. It's a very amazing experience to be in the jungle, with the sounds of the birds and wind, and suddenly see an orang-utan swinging through the trees - and then another, and another....

entrance to semenggoh At the entrance to the trail into the jungle to the orang feeding station - they are fed three times a day, and it is around the feeding station while they are eating and playing that the visitors are brought to see them ....

....about 40 people made the trek this day to see the orangs (and be seen by the orangs! - they did quite a bit of watching themselves) watching orangs

Look look! Here they come!!! swinging through the trees

orang swinging - and another! (don't be deceived by the apparent closeness - I had the ol zoom cranked up! - and am pleased it worked fairly well with the little digital camera that is neat but I still don't trust like the ol 35 mil - we were never any closer than perhaps 60-80 yards to one - and a good chunk of those yards would be above ground - that is, in the treetops - and them jungle trees are high...

feeding station - one finally made it to the feeding station (they took their time in most everything - no rat race here!) - and had a boo at us while he (or she) was having his first bananas of the day....



Well - the younger males (I think they were mostly) came first - their legs are like two more arms, as they can bend them straight out from the hip - and their balance is unbelievable - they can basically walk up (using three limbs) the top side of a rope swaying between two points
orangs coming to feeding station youngster with bananas

- but the young guys cleared out quick when Mom came with her kid ..... mom clearing out the feeding station

getting away from the female Go go go!!!!


After the first hunger pangs are taken care of, always time to play around in the tree tops .....


playing in the trees


mom and kid hanging in trees A lucky pic, in focus and all, of mom and the kid


Just watching the world go by .... young orang in tree with bananas

young orang in tree with bananas One shot together before leaving this wonderful place ....

Well, unfortunately, all great things come to an end some time, as do all good things and all not so good things, and far too soon it was time to be heading back (I think most of the group's leaders had been quite patiently waiting for me for at least a half hour by this time! - I just couldn't get enough, they were so interesting to watch - the last few minutes I watched a young male high above us trying to get from one tree to another, in the swaying treetops - he would lean way over, and his weight pull the top of the tree, but could just not quite reach the next branch he needed - so he leaned back the other way to try to develop a bit more momentum, and then BACK the other way! - but again, could not quite get what he wanted. He did this 7-8 times before he finally made it - and for the last few times, another orang was sitting in a nearby tree watching it all - just fascinating (and funny at times) to watch...) - and regretfully I joined the rest of them leaving the jungle. dave at home with the orangs....

Well, there's more to the jungle - and the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre - than orang utans, and we had a wander around. There wasn't a whole lot of stuff at the wildlife centre itself, unfortunately - apparently this area does not have the abundance of wildlife of other national parks, and there weren't even any hornbills, which I was quite looking forward to seeing in the wild. All we really saw, animal-wise, were some small crocodiles and turtles, and these lazy Borneo porcupines, which were interesting because of their quills, which are at least ten inches long - and are used for various handicraft things such as weaving - they are perfect for slipping between threads and separating them - Ann and other weavers have been using them for this for years (the pic is one of her quills).... (the porcs were also very foul-smelling - real gag stuff.... - doesn't come across in the pics, but part of the experience!)

sleeping porcupines

the Borneo porcupine quill - imagine your mutt with a faceful of these!!!
the Borneo porcupine quill - imagine your mutt with a faceful of these!!!


After our roam around the grounds of the wildlife center which was somewhat less than real interesting (to be fair, they were in the middle of redoing the visitor's centre as well) we headed back out to the main road, a mile or so away, to catch a bus back to town. Along the way we passed the Ethnobotanical Centre, which was very interesting and beautiful (full disclosure! - I am a biologist, at least "by training" in university, as they say, and by avocation, when I find time) - and really find nature interesting!)
ethno-botanical centre sign

It was impossible to get a real good picture of this place, but it was actually awesome - and that's a word I don't toss about readily. Like a cathedral in and of the forest - the area stretched back into the forest probably 300 or more yards, and was at least 100 yards across, all with the small pond running through the center with a couple of bridges across it, and gently sloping banks stretching back from it, with trees and open spaces and little flower beds throughout, all in the semi-gloom caused by the giant trees all around, with birds singing and the wind gently blowing through.
Dennis's garden

After just absorbing it all for a few minutes, I took a walk around - and met the gardener of this wonderful place himself - a very pleasant and helpful man named Dennis, who told me what he was doing, and how, something like the cultural village, the different ethnic groups in Sarawak were each making a garden like this, that reflected the plants they used in the traditional lives, and gave some sense of the way they lived in the forest - this was, of course, like the traditional costumes at the cultural center, a bit artificial - but no more so than any Canadian garden botanical garden, which are also very beautiful places...
dennis the gardener

ann with plant ann with palm
Pitcher plants are quite neat - they capture insects or other things and digest them - carnivorous plants! - there aren't many in Canada, but there are several varieties here.
ann with pitcher plant pitcher plants


And that was about the end of our visit to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and environs - just over the next hill was the road, and the new visitor's center which should be finished by the time you get there, and should make for an even better experience. So back to Kuching we went.....


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