Day 10: Rain and Orangutans and Sun Bears oh my!

Today was such a good day, we woke up around 7 in the morning exited to start an amazing day with Orangutans and Sun bears. (Orangutans exclusively Asian species, native to Indonesia and Malaysia, are currently found in only the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra similar as the Sun Bear, the sun bear is a species of bear found in tropical forest habitats of Southeast Asia). After an amazing breakfast, our group got on the bus for our first adventure of the day directly to the Sepilok Orangutan Center, even with a very strong rain, the clime did not affect anyways our desire to learn and get super close with these incredible animals.

Our first stop was with the Orangutans, we learned that Orangutans, the animal that shares the most DNA with humans. The word Orang Utan is derived from “orang” meaning man, and “utan” meaning forest — “Man of the forest.” Orangutans at this moment are one of the most endangered primates, listed as critically endangered is one of the most protected species in the world with up to 30,000 ringgits in fines and up to 10 years in jail if killed or caught as pets. The orangutan’s biggest threat is deforestation due to palm oil which is used in almost anything today, what palm oil industries due is burn the rain forest and grow palm trees to get the palm oil from the fruits palm trees produce. To help and learn about orangutans we visited the Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation center were we saw wild orangutans in their natural habitat. Although the weather was conflicting we still saw 4 orangutans wandering around the rainforest looking for food and in the middle of the park we saw a 14 year old orangutan who got up close to us. This experience was topped off with the ross school adopting 4 orangutans.

Later on, we had an unforgettable opportunity to obverse the Malayan Sun Bear (Helactros malayanus). Named for the golden crescent on their chest, the Sun Bears are mostly black with smooth and short fur. At the center, we observed semi-wild Sun Bears from a platform while they were climbing trees and eating fruits. Unfortunately, the Malayan Sun Bear is also in endangerment. As well as other bears in Asia , the Sun Bear is hunted for their gall bladders and other body parts for medicinal uses that have been proven scientifically inefficient. Another big threat to the Bornean biodiversity and the Sun Bears is the environment destruction caused by clearance for plantations development, such as palm plantations. This remarkable experience reinforced for me the importance of environment conversation and how small efforts end up making a huge difference.

~Rodrigo, Pedro, and Memo

Meeting Ceria is closest we’ve gotten to the Orangutan in Borneo. Ceria translates to “cheerful” in Malay, however, the group was explicitly told to stay clear of Ceria as he’s prone to give painful “love bites” in the past, resulting in 18-20 stitches.

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Photo credit: Kieran Ryan

At one point as the large group surrounded Ceria, he stood on his two feet, walked towards an onlooker, and attempted to grab at her rain poncho. For better or worse, I don’t think that individual will soon forget the close encounter.