Sabah, Borneo: The Orang-utan

When you think of Borneo, one of the first things that springs to mind is the Orang-utan, or ‘man of the forest’. These endangered apes are in serious trouble due to deforestation and human disturbance, so seeing a wild orang-utan is obviously a major aim when visiting the island of Borneo.

In Sabah, there are numerous places that have populations of wild Orang-utans still hanging on, and one of the best of these is the Danum Valley. The Danum Valley Conservation Area is a very large area of remote virgin primary forest in East Sabah, and is absolutely full of life. This would be a great place to have a look.

The Danum Valley Canopy

Our moment came on our second day of jungle trekking, when our guide took us down to a river crossing at the beginning of a trek. There was one other guide there, who had clearly spotted something, so we went down to the river bank to see if we could get a better look. Once at the bank, we could see movement in a tree on the opposite side. A middle-aged orang-utan was sat in the tree opposite us. It seemed completely oblivious to our presence. This orang-utan was around 13 years old, about the same age as me. It has lived in the Danum Valley all its life, being completely free to move and go wherever it wants. This is how it should be. 


When looking at the orang-utan sitting in the tree, it struck me how similar they are to us. The face of the orang-utan looks so similar to ours. When watching them in the forest, you feel a strange sort of connection with them. And this is why it’s even sadder that we’re the cause of their risk of extinction. We are close to being responsible for the end of a species that share 97% of our genes. Humans keep them as pets, shooting the mothers, and hoping the babies will survive the fall from the canopy. And with agriculture and plantations advancing towards rainforest, their last remaining refuges are at risk. Without the forests and their diverse selection of fruits, the orang-utans perish. The difficult problem that is saving the Bornean rainforests needs to be solved, to protect not only the orang-utans, but all the other wonderful creatures that inhabit the forests of Borneo.

Seeing the wild orang-utan was an incredible, and somewhat moving experience, and one I will certainly never forget.

And I would like to thank our wonderful Danum Valley guide, George, for showing us some of the best of Borneo's wildlife.


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