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Riding the buses » Malaysia, Memorable moments, Travel itinerary, Wildlife » The orangutans of Borneo

The orangutans of Borneo

When I visited the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre in Borneo earlier this year I was lucky to see several orangutans for there is no guarantee that they will show up, even if their feeding platforms are overflowing with food.

There are only two places in the world where orangutans are found, one is Borneo and the other Sumatra, Indonesia. It is estimated that there are between 12,500 and 20,000 orangutans in Borneo


The word orangutan comes from the Malay words ‘orang’ meaning ‘people’ and ‘hutan’ meaning forest. They are the ‘people of the forest’. They are the largest tree dwelling mammal in the world. Their life expectancy is more than 45 years.


They are also known as red apes because of their reddish orange hair. Both male and female have throat pouches that allow them to make sounds that resonate through the forests. The coat helps to camouflage them in the forest.


The adult males (50 – 100 kg) are twice the size of the female (30-50 kg). They are also four times stronger than a human. One of the rangers got his finger taken off by one. He now collects tickets instead of working with the animals.


Their arms and legs are specially designed. Their arms are twice as long as their legs. This helps them to swing from branch to branch. When an adult male stretches out his arm it can be 2.4 m (7.9 ft) long.


Orangutans move effortlessly through the rainforest. That’s because of where their thumbs and big toes are positioned. This gives them the nimbleness they need to move hand over hand, grasping tree branches in an ‘iron fist’ manner. When they are on the ground they walk on their fists. This is called (surprise, surprise) ‘fist walking’.


You are told to always keep your distance from the orangutans—at least 5 m (16 ft) away especially when they are on the ground. But sometimes they just show up in front of you. This is Delima with her baby. Orangutans are the slowest to breed of all mammals and the mothers take care of their babies until they are almost 5 year old.


This nature reserve is very special. It is an undisturbed primary forest that probably contains the richest flora in the world. It is also known for it’s large variety of birds and for the Giant and Pigmy squirrels.

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Source: Signs posted in the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

By Sylvia Fanjoy

Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy

© Riding the buses 2012

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