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Parks & Reserves
The Semenggoh Wildlife Centre was established in
1975 to care for wild animals which have either been
found injured in the forest, orphaned, or were previously
kept as illegal pets. The centre is situated within
the boundaries of the Semenggoh Nature Reserve, approximately
24 km from Kuching.
When established, the three main aims of the Centre
- To rehabilitate wild animals who have
been injured, orphaned in the wild or handicapped
- prolonged captivity, with the objective of subsequently
releasing them back to the wild.
- To conduct research on wildlife and captive
breeding programmes for endangered species.
- To educate visitors and the general public
about the importance of conservation.
The Centre has been a resounding success, caring
for almost 1,000 endangered mammals, birds
and reptiles from dozens of different species.
However it is the orang utan rehabilitation
programme that has made the Centre famous.
In one respect, Semenggoh has been too successful – so many orang utan have
been successfully reintroduced into the surrounding
forest reserve that the forest’s carrying
capacity has been reached, and rehabilitation
activities have been transferred to the Matang
Wildlife Centre, part of Kubah National Park.
As a result of its success, Semenggoh’s
role has changed and it is nowadays a centre
for the study of orang utan biology and behaviour,
as well as a safe and natural haven for dozens
of semi-wild orang utan, graduates of the rehabilitation
programme. It is also home to numerous baby
orang utan, born in the wild to rehabilitated
mothers, a further testament to the success
of the programme.
A visit to Semenggoh is a once in a lifetime
experience - a chance to see semi-wild orang
utan, ranging from tiny infants and boisterous
adolescents to dignified mature adults, enjoying
life in a secure natural habitat.
UTAN IN THE WILD
The orang utan (pongo
is found in the rainforests of Malaysian Borneo
(Sarawak and Sabah), Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan)
and North Sumatra. It is one of the world’s
largest primates, and is almost completely arboreal
(tree living). The word “orang” is
Malay for “person” whilst “utan” is
derived from “hutan” meaning forest.
Thus, orang utan literally translates as “person
of the forest”.
A mature male has large check pads and a pendulous throat sac. Adult males can
reach a height of 150 cm (5 ft), weigh up to 100 kg (220lbs) and have an arm
span of 240 cm (8 ft). Females are about three quarters of the height and half
the weight of the males. Both sexes are covered with long reddish hair. Orang
utan have a low reproductive rate, females usually giving birth to a single infant
once every 7-8 years. Females reach sexual maturity at 12 years of age but generally
don’t have their first offspring until two or three years later. Males
reach sexual maturity at 15 but their cheek pads may not fully develop until
a few years later. The life expectancy of orang utan in the wild is unknown but
is thought to be less than in captivity, where some have lived to over 50 years
Orang utan are primarily fruit eaters and spend most of the day roaming the forest
foraging for food. They are particularly fond of wild figs and the pungent smelling
durian. Although fruit is their most important source of food, they also feed
on young leaves, insects, bark, flowers, eggs and small lizards. Each individual
builds a new nest each night, a safe resting place 12-18 metres (40-60 ft) up
in the roof of the forest.
Wild orang utan are generally solitary. However, adolescents often gather in
pairs and females occasionally form temporary groups of four or five. This rather
lonely existence stems both from the relative scarcity of food in the rainforest
and from a lack of predators. A mature adult roams a vast area of forest every
day in order to find enough food to satisfy its healthy appetite. Its huge size
also eliminates the need for ‘group defence’.
The orang utan is an endangered species and is totally protected by law in Malaysia,
Indonesia and internationally. Today, there are an estimated 20-27,000 orang
utan left in the wild (perhaps 20,000 or so in Borneo and the rest in Sumatra).
Deforestation, human encroachment on their habitat, indiscriminate hunting and
the live animal trade: all are factors that have contributed to a decline in
their numbers. To gain a better understanding of the orang utan and re-introduce
rescued animals into the wild, both the Indonesian and Malaysian authorities
have set up rehabilitation programmes. Sarawak’s centre at Semenggoh is
open to the public so visitors can find out more about these highly intelligent
creatures of the rainforest.
Although the rehabilitation programme for newly rescued
orang utan has now been transferred to Matang Wildlife
Centre, every adult and adolescent animal at Semenggoh
has undergone this programme, so it is worth describing
When rescued orang utan arrive at the Centre they are a given a medical check-up
and placed in cages. The first stage of the rehabilitation process then begins.
Like young humans, the young orang utan have to be taught to survive in their
habitat. Every day the wardens take them to suitable places in the forest where
they learn how to climb trees, swing on branches and forage for food. After two
to four years they are able to fend for themselves and are released into the
surrounding Forest Reserve.
Although these recently released orang utan spend
most of their time in the surrounding forest, they
do return to the centre where they are fed twice
daily at a “halfway
house” feeding station. Over time the orang utan appear less frequently
as they start to adjust to life in the forest. During the fruit season they may
not appear at all, which is a good sign and shows that they are adapting well
to their new surroundings. The final stage of the long rehabilitation process
is for an orang utan to be released into one of Sarawak’s
National Parks or Wildlife Sanctuaries.
The best time
to visit Semenggoh is during the morning and afternoon
feeding sessions when there is a good chance of seeing
semi-wild orang utan returning to the Centre for a
free meal. Feeding takes place between 9.00-10.00am
and between 3.00-3.30 pm.
As feeding time approaches, the semi-wild orang utan emerge from the rainforest,
descending from the forest canopy to the lower branches of trees near feeding
platform. They are highly entertaining creatures and offer a wealth of facial
expressions to visitors.
It is not uncommon to see two young orang utan playing, or a mother teaching
her baby how to climb, but these antics soon stop when a warden appears carrying
buckets of fruits and bottles of milk. Then, the orang utan slowly make their
way to the feeding area, faithfully following the footsteps of the warden or
swinging in the trees above the footpath.
For the visitor, feeding times provide a unique opportunity to view the orang
utan at close range. The animals usually spend considerable time feeding in one
place, either on the wooden platform, in a nearby tree or hanging from guide
ropes. Visitors therefore have an excellent view, a remarkable photo opportunity,
and ample time to appreciate the intelligence and beauty of these fascinating
Occasionally orang utan will visit the Centre HQ rather than the feeding area,
to simply look at the visitors rather than feed. Whilst it is impossible to assume
human motives for this behaviour, it appears they are simply satisfying their
curiosity, or in some cases showing off their delightful infants to an admiring
addition to the orang utan, visitors will be able
to see other endangered species at Semenggoh. The
wildlife population varies, so it is difficult to say
exactly what animals you may encounter on your visit.
However, the centre has housed a wide range of wildlife,
including rescued gibbons, porcupines, crocodiles and
river terrapins. In the surrounding forest you will
certainly hear the cries of rehabilitated gibbons,
as well as the songs of a host of wild bird species.
Brightly coloured lizards and various species of squirrel
are also frequently encountered.
The wildlife rehabilitation centre is part of the Semenggoh
Nature Reserve. The other major component of this conversation
project is the Botanical Research Centre (BRC). With
ethnobotanical gardens, wild fruit orchards, a “Fernarium”,
a Rheophyte garden and more, the BRC has much to offer
the visitor. Five nature trails and a plankwalk have
been laid out to allow visitors the opportunity of
seeing the various gardens. The trails are all relatively
short with trekking times ranging from 5-30 minutes,
whilst the time required for the plankwalk is approximately
30 minutes. A plant identification system has been
created alongside the plankwalk so that visitors are
able to familiarise themselves with some of the better
known trees and plants. For example, Dipterocarps such
as Meranti and Engkabang are highlighted, as are wild
fruit trees such as Cempedak (jackfruit) and the infamous
Further details can be obtained at the BRC office.
occasions, the orang utan may descend from the trees
near the Centre HQ and approach visitors. Although
this is likely to be an unforgettable experience,
visitors should bear in mind that the orang utan,
however tame they may appear, are still wild, powerful
and potentially dangerous animals. The Centre is
also part of a Totally Protected Area. Therefore
the following rules & regulations
must be observed when visiting the centre.
- Do not hold, feed, touch, play with or in
any way disturb the orang utan, and always move at
least six metres away from an animal that is on the
ground. There are three very good reasons for this.
Firstly, the animals may become too attached to humans,
making it harder for them to survive in the wild. Secondly
humans are able to communicate certain diseases to
orang utan, and vice-versa. By eliminating contact
the possibility of disease transfer is reduced. Thirdly,
an orang utan may feel threatened and attempt to attack
you – some of the Semenggoh wardens carry
ugly scars from protecting thoughtless visitors
- Do not bring any food or drinks into
the Centre. The orang utan and other animals at
the centre already receive a balanced diet, and
the smell of food may encourage an animal to approach
- Do not smoke in the feeding area or any
other part of the Forest Reserve.
- Do follow the warden’s instructions
and advice at all times.
- Do not collect, or pick plants or animals
in Semenggoh Nature Reserve, or in any other Totally
- Do not litter. Please use the litter
|Entry Fees & Permits
There is a nominal entry
fee for all National Parks and Nature Reserves
in Sarawak. Check with the National Parks
Booking Office in Kuching for the latest
fee structure. Visitors to Semenggoh can
pay their entry fee at the main gate. A permit
is required for professional photography
or filming, which should be arranged in advance
with the National Parks Booking Office.
|Reservations & Enquiries
National Parks Booking
Visitors Information Centre,
Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg,
93000 Kuching Sarawak,
Tel: (+6) 082 248088 Fax: (+6) 082 248087
Online booking: http://ebooking.com.my
The Visitors Information Centre is located
in the Old Courthouse Complex at the junction
of Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, Jalan Gambier
and Main Bazaar, opposite the Kuching Waterfront.
|National Parks Booking Office
||0800 hrs – 1700 hrs
|Saturday, Sunday& Public Holidays
|0900 hrs – 1000 hrs and 1500 hrs – 1530
From Kuching, take Sarawak Transport Company
bus No. 6 which stops outside the main gate,
from here it is a 20 minute walk to the Centre.
The last return bus to Kuching is at 1700
hrs. Visitors can also take a taxi from the
main taxi stand in Kuching, or from outside
their hotel. Local travel Agents also run
guided tours to Semenggoh.
is no accommodation at Semenggoh and overnight
visits are not permitted. Visitors must leave
via the main gate by 1645 hrs.
Tel: (+6) 082 610088 Fax: (+6) 082 610099
Toll free line: 1 800 88 2526
Semenggoh Wildlife Centre
Tel: +6082 618325 or +6082 618324 Fax: +6082 618424