Despite its passive nature, the orangutans are endangered, as classified by the World Conservation Union. Latest estimates from 2008 studies show that there are less than 7,000 orangutans left in the wild.
While most of Malaysia’s orangutan rehabilitation efforts are focused in east Malaysia, such as the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in Sabah, other initiatives are also forming in Peninsular Malaysia toward this goal. One fundamental hub that contributes to these efforts is Orangutan Island located in Semanggol, Perak.
Situated within the Bukit Merah Laketown Resort, Orangutan Island is a research institution dedicated to the preservation and research of the orangutan. It was developed to resemble the orangutan’s natural habitat as closely as possible. The island itself, formerly known as Pulau Panjang, has five acres of land dedicated as a research and rehabilitation center for the endangered orangutan.
The island has specialized medical facilities that cater to the healthcare of the orangutans. The facility’s Infant Care Unit (ICU) is equipped with heart monitors, IV drips, incubators, as well as a trained veterinary surgeon. Possible complications that commonly occur among infant orangutans include premature birth, a low birth weight, upper respiratory tract infections, and chronic diarrhea. To minimize the risk of these complications, expecting orangutan mothers are closely monitored.
Infants who are admitted to the ICU will go through a specially designed rehabilitation program consisting of six stages to ensure the development of their natural instincts. These include foraging, nest building, searching for water source, swinging, and climbing. The rehabilitation program aims to ensure the infant adapts well to their natural environment before their eventual release into the wild.
Aside from the rehabilitation of orangutans, the island also acts as a research and resource center and is available for undergraduate and graduate students who would like to conduct research. Detailed educational programs are also organized for interested school and college students.
For a more hands on approach, visitors are able to educate themselves by observing the orangutans firsthand at the conservation center, a 328-foot steel caged tunnel that traverses the conservation site. Keen observers take note of the ironical role reversal: on this island, humans are caged, while the orangutans roam free.
For more information on Orangutan Island in Perak, please visit www.orangutanisland.org.my/about-oui/oui-overview.html.